Over the course of the season–a season in which they had the best record in the NBA–no player averaged as many as 30 minutes a game. No player averaged as many as 20 points a game, though there were nine players that averaged between 8 and 17. The roster included eight international players, representing seven countries and four continents. They used 29 different starting lineups. There was a 38-year-old starter. There was a 22-year-old starter.
People talk about unselfish basketball. They talk about team-first basketball. They talk about the need to sacrifice individual achievement for the good of the group. These things are held up as lofty ideals that teams should strive for in an essentially star-driven league. But the 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs embodied all of them, to such a degree that they will now be the measure by which such things are judged.
There were individual narratives, yes. There was Tim Duncan, becoming the first NBA player ever to start on championship teams in three different decades. There was Kawhi Leonard, emerging onto the national stage and joining Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson as the youngest Finals MVPs ever. There was Manu Ginobili, leading the Spurs comeback and silencing with thunderous authority those who said his career was over a year ago. There was Boris Diaw, waived by the worst team in NBA history, but a crucial starter on a championship team. There was Tony Parker, winning right next to him, the two of them best friends since they were teenagers in France, and coming right after they led their national team to Euroleague victory. There was Danny Green’s silky offense and suffocating defense, Patty Mills’s unfailing energy and scoring prowess, Tiago Splitter becoming the first Brazilian to ever win a ring. There’s R. C. Buford’s personnel, and Popovich’s plan. There were plenty of individual narratives.
But the most important narrative was the collective. This group of men suffered the most heartbreaking finals loss imaginable in 2013, and responded to it by trusting each other more, deferring to each other more, committing to the idea that the way forward was to forego personal accolades for team success. And when those choices led them again to the finals, against the same opponent, they produced the most crushing victory the NBA has ever seen. They set a record for shot-clock era Finals field goal percentage at 52.8%. They beat the Heat by an average 14 points a game, the largest average margin of victory in Finals history. They believed in each other, set records doing it, and emerged victorious.
I’ve run out of ways to describe how amazing this team was. But that hardly matters; they are a team for the ages. New things to say or no, I’ll be talking about them for the rest of my life.