And they won. So often, and so much. I begged for another champion. Anyone but these boring, slow old Spurs.
Last year, my first year living in Austin, created a new situation. The Spurs were in the Finals again, but this time, in a city only 75 miles away from me. And like all Texas sports teams I felt forced to love, I found ways to push them away. The fans were too obnoxious. The colors still looked drab and ugly. Their dynasty was ending and Lebron and his Heatles would only confirm that.
They came extremely close to winning last year. They were one all-time incredible NBA play from winning Game 6 and their fifth title. We all know what happened then. But I will never forget the end of Game 7 of the 2013 Finals, when Duncan, the Big Fundamental, had a chance to make a lay-up that he'd literally made thousands of times before. It was enough to tie the game. And he missed. I will never, ever forget the look on his face as he walked back to the other side of the court. He knew it. They had blown it. It was over.
This year, all through the playoffs, I kept hoping for San Antonio to be undercut by one of those tough Western opponents. I was tired of hearing about their execution, their overwhelming bench, their teamwork that bordered on transcendence. They may have had a lot of things, I thought, but they didn't have a LeBron.
I don't know quite when or how it happened. Maybe it was Tim Duncan - normally press-shy and boast-absent - stating the Spurs were going to "do it this time". Maybe it was learning that Patty Mills - who had worked so hard to lose weight and make himself a crucial part of the team - came from my father's homeland. Maybe it was old man Ginobli making age-defying plays to make up for his collapse last year. Maybe it was Boris Diaw showing me just how many amazing plays a big man can make. Maybe it was Kawhi Leonard playing out of his mind and onto a whole level. Maybe it was the Big Fundamental just showing how great fundamentals can be. Maybe it was Pop giving his lovably short interviews and doses of dry-as-ash humor. Maybe it was all of it, all in one group, passed around and around until that one final, unmissable shot.
Somewhere along the way, I surrendered myself to this team. There was no reason to hate them. They represented everything I love about basketball - the ball movement, the defense, the absolute selflessness - and they did it with zest, with community, and with love for one another. They are that person you're secretly jealous of and won't give credit to until you realize they're really that good, they're really that nice to everybody, and they don't have a mean bone in their body. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge and appreciate it.
These guys won me and so many others over. They deserve all the credit in the world. Well done.