By Chris Murray (reprinted from The Chris Murray Report)
Now that the San Antonio Spurs have emphatically captured the 2014 NBA Finals in five games over a proud, but outgunned Miami Heat squad, here’s what I hope the fans will realize: the better TEAM won.
The emphasis on team with all caps goes out to all those on social media, sports talk radio and in various sports bars throughout the country who are under the impression that winning championships comes down to the individual efforts of one superstar.
Fans in this series were in one of two camps: those who adore and worship LeBron James and those people who want to see him fall on his ass every time he steps out on the court.
Here’s what the detractors are saying: LBJ is overrated, and he choked. Or he’s not as good as Michael Jordan. Or he lacks the ability and mindset of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
That’s nonsense. The Miami Heat lost in the finals because basketball is a team game. And San Antonio was, clearly, the the far superior team.
If wasn’t for the collective efforts of players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, Jordan and the Bulls would not have won those six titles. If Russell didn’t have Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek or Don Nelson, the Celtics would not have dominated their era.
In the case of the Spurs, you had a core group of three great players— Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker— that were surrounded by a solid supporting cast. And that group was led by a coach, Gregg Popovich, who molded that team into playing as a singular unit.
The 2014 edition of the Spurs got a tremendous contribution from an unexpected source from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who slowed down James on defense and was a huge contributor on offense, especially in the last three games when he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds.
Add in the contributions of Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter and it shows that, under Popovich, everybody can be great.
Explain that team concept to the NBA fans who are caught up in the cult of personality.
No doubt that great teams need that one clutch superstar who they can go to when the game is on the line. But that superstar also needs a solid group of teammates behind him to play specific roles.
Did you see what Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade did during the NBA finals? With two-thirds of the big three sleep walking for much of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat never had a chance.
James, in the finals, was fantastic: 28 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, four assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. Arguably, those are finals MVP numbers.
Unfortunately, the rest of his team didn’t play well enough when he needed them. That’s because the Spurs exposed, as they did in last year’s Finals, both the Heat’s weakness at the point guard position and a thin bench.
Add that up and at the end of the day, here’s what you get: the best TEAM won.