Even though the San Antonio Spurs are the 2014 NBA champions, it is impossible to talk about this year’s run without first discussing last year’s heartbreaking loss. I live in New York, so I usually watch Spurs games alone adrift a sea of Knicks fans. When San Antonio came so close in Game 6 last year only to lose it in the last 25 seconds, and then to drop a Game 7 that felt like an inevitable loss—painful doesn’t begin to describe it. Sitting there alone, it was devastating. And for some very personal reasons…
2013 was one of the worst years of my life, with a number of people close to me dying, lots of family drama, and some dour health news that will probably negatively affect me for the rest of my life. I really needed a lift last summer, and the Spurs finally reaching the finals again felt like that lift…and then, it was gone. It was like the bottom dropped out of the one good thing I had going. It sounds a little silly or sad even to think that a mere sports team can have such an impact on a person or that someone needs a team to win a game in order to make their life happier, but the Spurs have been one of the major connecting forced that kept me and my father and many important friends—who all live far away in SA—so close despite the miles. So the team matters to me because these people matter to me, and the loss hurt.
I’ll admit, I called off Manu Ginobili last year. I said he was done. I barely wanted him back. I called Danny Green a fluke and Splitter overpaid. But after some time passed I felt better about the re-signings and our chances. It slowly felt inevitable that we’d get back into the playoffs, and I only dreamed for a finals repeat. Yet with each passing round, I could taste the rematch. I’m still surprised how Dallas gave us our biggest challenge, pushing them to seven games. I had total faith in SA beating the Blazers (although they were the only other team I would have rooted for if SA lost. I like them) and I was honestly nervous about beating OKC, but they did it.
By that point, I knew 100% that something really special was happening. This wasn’t just a rematch, but redemption, revenge, an expelling of poisons. Even Tim called it, saying we were going to do it this time. (I say “we” like I had anything to do with it…). And I believed him. I knew this was going to play out differently than 2013. I knew it might take all seven games, but we’d take it this year. The “king” would be dethroned. Miami had a cakewalk playoffs against much weaker, less focused teams, while SA had the hell beaten out of them by top-notch teams but survived. SA was hungry, driven, maybe a little angry. Manu looked sharp, Diaw played better than ever, Tony looked a little slower but Patty Mills picked up the slack, Leonard was a new man, and Tim Duncan was his Tim Dunciest—consistent, focused, determined.
I think the best moment for me was seeing Tim looking so happy in the last quarter and with his kids after they won. Tim holding his two kids and winning on Father’s Day. Damn, that was awesome. I saw how much last year hurt him in Games 6 and 7. It looked like it killed him inside, and then he had to deal with a divorce last year too…I know damn well how much that sucks, and for him to overcome that, to redeem himself, to do it with his kids right there at home in San Antonio…well, like David Robinson’s exit in 2003, this couldn’t have been written any better, or sweeter. I’m so happy for him.
And I think that’s why this feels so good…I’m not happy for me as a fan, I’m happy for them as a team and individuals for having to live through that pain we fans witnessed (but didn’t really experience directly) and to see them overcome that. THAT is what made this special for me. Because it was special for them.
So congrats, Spurs, and thank you for making this year—a year only slightly less difficult personally than last year—a little better. This is all I needed as a fan after 2013. If we win another championship, so be it, but anything else is icing on an already amazing cake after this.
If this is all we get, I’m happy.
So damn happy.