by Oliver Layco
The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are set to face off in the NBA Finals this year, and the two teams couldn’t be any more different if you tried. The Spurs have been the model NBA franchise for more than a decade and no one has really paid attention to them. Meanwhile the Heat have garnered the attention, positive or negative, of the entire league in just three short seasons. The Spurs have had the core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Coach Popovich. Over the years, they have won 4 NBA Championships. Ever since Duncan has entered the league, they have never missed the playoffs. Different role players like Avery Johnson, Robert Horry, and Kawhi Leonard have each bought into the system and contributed to this franchise. Whatever Coach Pop is telling them behind the scenes to keep this team chugging along is a mystery that we will never know. No drama seems to follow this team around and that’s probably why no one pays attention to them. They just keep silently winning while the rest of the league fights for the spotlight. They understand the team concept and that none of that outside noise really matters. They also know how to develop their players from practically nobody’s to the All-Stars they are today. Tony Parker was drafted 28th in the First round in 1999 and has developed into arguably the best point guard in the league. Meanwhile, Manu Ginobili was drafted 57th in the Second round of the 1999 draft and has become the hard nosed defensive player that we’ve become accustomed to.
However, down in Florida it’s a completely different story. Relatively young, they have only been in the league for 25 years. In that time it has been mediocrity even when they won in 2006. They even retired Michael Jordan’s number even if he didn’t play there. Even with that, I doubt any of their current fans would know who the other two players are that have their numbers in the rafters. Then 3 years ago when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, that would catapult them to elite status overnight. They have made the Finals in three consecutive seasons while winning the second time around. This created a notion of a bought championship vs. the Spurs having built theirs. While I’m no stranger to being part of a fanbase whose ownership has deep pockets, I believe I can still say the Heat didn’t earn theirs. The Heat still look like they’re scrambling to find the right pieces at points, but the brilliance of James and his merry men have masked the need for consistency from the rest of the team. With 3 of the top 5 picks of the draft class on one team, how can anyone say they earned and fought for what others have developed into? That is going to be the main focus for me going into this series. While the Spurs core is on the other side of 30, they have developed players through the draft and free agency to be back at the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, Miami has a great peak but their foundation is shaky and they rely on their greatness. This should be an interesting series to see how the fundamental Spurs match up with the flashy style of the Heat.