The world needed to see San Antonio win this one. And the Spurs did. It’s the system. The historically impressive number of contracts extended to foreign players. The oh-so-household names of Patty Mills and Boris Diaw. The military-esque tutelage of a full-time obsessive coach, part time fine wine connoisseur. The fact that a Spalding regulation basketball flies faster than LeBron James or Norris Cole sprints. The truisms of reticence and consistency that have abounded in the Spurs’ level-headed play for the last two decades. Oh, it’s the joy, the inexplicable, inherently deep-rooted yet moderately distasteful satisfaction when the system trumps the heroes.
This post-season has elucidated the futility of hero ball in the NBA, yet few recognize an impeccably similar downfall in our perceptions of society. Driven by singularities, by Gladwell’s outliers, we’re bred to make sense of Bergdahl’s character and key in on Obama’s foreign affairs decision making, as if these men are the sole constituents involved. Conceptually, the initial reactions to a 5-to-1 Taliban quid pro quo should not so different from the reactions to a 7-to-1 stock split of America’s largest company by market capitalization: the former should enunciate decades of multi-national friction as much as it predicates the deliberation of a few singular individuals, while the latter should reflect an organizational system facilitating the productivity of Apple’s 80,300 full-time employees as much as it reminds us of the original brilliance of Jobs and Woz. Elliot Rodger’s name rings with fury through our ears, seeping into the most sensitive cortexes our minds, yet we relegate patching the ineffectiveness of our current system of arms control and psychological misidentification to prevent such cases. We’re convinced we can guess Edward Snowden’s exact location, but we don’t comprehend the nuances of the NSA’s privacy divulging intents.
We play hero ball. I play hero ball. Moreover, we thoroughly dissect the personas of the most egregious villains who direly threaten the advancement of society insofar as these crooks become almost as well-known as our heroes, just in the opposite light.
After “The Decision,” and even following two consecutive championships, LeBron still rests somewhere along that sliding scale ascending from villainy to superhero, with our individual opinions of him varying indirectly with our geographical proximity to Miami. We’ve held opinions of the most publically scrutinized player in the history of the game, but had Coach Pop’s team not elevated their performance from last year’s finals, we perhaps would have forgotten about the most recent dynasty of an NBA team. That’s why the Spurs’ game five victory last night was a favor for all of us.
The (once dubbed) most boring team in one of the NBA’s smallest markets is mutilating the up-tempo, salary cap over-driven, most scrutinized ever two-time defending champions. The most robust and extraordinarily refined basketball system in a long time stands as a referendum for an insurgency of team basketball: using Boris Diaw to whip assists behind the back of Chris Bosh, allowing Tiago Splitter enough space to finish (yeah, you saw it too) dunks over DWade, enabling Patty Mills (who?) to sink 24 foot jumpers over the outstretched limbs of the historical leader in three-point field goal makes, and supercharging 22 year-old Kawhi Leonard to shine brighter than even Mr. James on the highest stage of basketball in the world. San Antonio’s system is reminding us all that no one can go at it alone.
I’m a self-admitted band-wagonner, but how can anyone not appreciate what’s happening in professional basketball right now? Here I am—ready, capable, ambitious—but I’m not really doing anything on my own. I never will be. I’m functioning within a larger system, and I must not forget that. I can saw against the metaphorical grain as long as want, but someday I’ll either need to rethink my direction or reinvent the grain to follow my convictions. Because that’s what it’s about. Making a dent in the universe through individualism, but also acknowledging my relative powerlessness without any form of external synergy. The San Antonio Spurs only represent a proxy in a much larger realization. A nation, individual, or company focusing on a well-lubricated, well-managed system succeeds. And the Spurs’ utter dominance is just another iconic reminder as to why hero ball eventually comes up short. Right, Mark Jackson?
Man, I love this game.