Being from Las Vegas, I have no loyalty to any professional teams, no hometown sports pride but for
1. Andre Agassi
2. Rod “He Hate Me” Smart of the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws
3. The good ol’ Tarkanian years (which we all remember so well) of UNLV, and those who descended from it.
In other words, I like exciting basketball. I like fast basketball. I like rope-a-dope basketball, reindeer games, madness, domination, postering, outsized personalities, and mainly, the kind of basketball they tell most kids they will never grow up to be anything if they play, to which I say: Look at JR Smith.
So naturally, for the longest time, I’d never liked the Spurs. Early 90s: I was eight years-old, and the Spurs were the Student Council of basketball, lead by David Robinson, a walking PSA—Robinson was great! And exciting! And seemed to have some semblance of personality. And seemed to be a genuinely good guy. Thus: Untrustworthy, and probably up to something. I was totally wrong about this, but I was right in my instinct about basketball players who go to San Antonio.
Flash-Forward, 2005: I’m 20 years old, I’d just dropped out of college, and I was generally an irresponsible piece of shit, one who rushed out of his busboy job in North Carolina every night to go home, smoke weed, and watch the NBA playoffs with my roommate. It was a summer of malaise. There was a lot of waiting for something exciting to happen. And when it didn’t, then, there were road trips. That year’s NBA playoffs was one of those exciting things that very slowly didn’t happen.
Or they did, in the most disappointing way:
The Spurs won.
On the way to the 2005 finals, they cold-clocked the Suns—who’d just signed Steve Nash that season, making one of the most explosively fun shooting teams to watch maybe ever—in five games, in a typically mechanical, casual fashion. They took Detroit to seven, and Detroit—a team that played an insanely quick transition offense—forced San Antonio to play a slightly more exciting game, in the same way listening to heavy metal while doing homework could make homework more exciting:
It’s still homework. More than anything else, the Spurs winning the 2005 playoffs was yet another boring outcome that summer.
The San Antonio Spurs, under the influence of the SkyNet-birthed Tim Duncan: The basketball equivalent of a cotillion class. They are a perfunctory, professional team of finesse, that plays calculated, mathematical sports. If the Spurs are a board game, they’re not even Risk, they’re chess. If they’re a candy bar, they’re Chunky, or some bullshit with raisins in it. They’re the basketball equivalent of either (A) only having sex in the missionary position or even worse, (B) only having sex to have children (or in this metaphor, a trophy). One should have fun along the way to those things! Basketball is a game. Games are supposed to be fun.
For so long, watching them play basketball has been like taking watching a Porsche 911 being taken out on a grocery run, by a defensive driver who’s never had a ticket: A waste of a fast car.
Or so it was until 2007, when we saw Tim Duncan get ejected by Joey Crawford for what history fondly remembers as absolutely nothing. Finally! Less remarkable was the disgruntled Geometry teacher finally reaching a breaking point than the fact that he made a rebel out of the good kid. Watching Tim Duncan get ejected by Joey Crawford was so hilariously next-level weird, but also validating in that Tim Duncan even saw how absurd the authoritarian figure was being, and fell victim to that.
Tim Duncan! Who is the closest thing to a referee NBA players have. And still, I could not root for the Spurs. But it was a start.
Five years later, Gregg Popovich—the NBA’s answer to Bill Belichick, and for all intents and purposes, the programmer of Tim Duncan’s current operating system—started some shit, too. We all remember how, in 2012, Pop flew his starters home to rest them while the remainder of the Spurs played a nationally televised game against the Heat. It was, effectively, the most boring thing Gregg Popovich could have done (this includes the very incidental fact that he flew them home on Southwest Airlines, but foregoes the incredible fact that it was a very, very close game).
And oh, how David Stern was pissed! Pop got fined $250,000 for essentially playing Risk, and playing it really well. Again, the NBA had made edgy rebels out of the most boring people in the league, which is far more impressive and exciting than a self-made rebel, which in the post-Iverson era, is boring (again: Look at J.R. Smith). It was an exciting if not disturbing revelation, like finding out your parents starting smoking weed again once you left for college. Who knew they had this side of them?
Which brings us to the San Antonio Spurs—and myself—in 2014. I’m 29. I’ve seen enough postering and run-and-gun basketball, I’ve seen the outsized personalities, and I’m tired of them. I enjoy the idea of staying up until 4 A.M. far more than the actual practice of it. Ray Allen beaming in threes is old hat. So is LeBron playing a nearly perfect game with regularity. Or puking and rallying.
But ah, yes, the Spurs, a refined taste, the Arch Deluxe of basketball. Their coach regularly proves himself still one of the biggest assholes in the NBA (last night’s press conference, obviously no exception), and also, one of its greatest. They are old, they have always been old, they were all probably like those babies who only make old person expressions. And yet: They have dismantled teams who are younger, who know all the cool bars and strip clubs and rappers and hairdos, who have tattoos and teammates like Chris Anderson, who obviously worships Satan, which is edgy. They are not edgy. They are the Frasier to the Miami’s Friends, or the Clippers’ Fresh Prince.
But, like their coach, they aren’t just old, but old bastards. Old bastards who play a style of basketball that can best be summed up by the old adage about old age and treachery. Old bastards who enjoy the peaty taste of scotch, who are well aware that the best revenge is living well, and living quietly, and to that end, they play a quietly destructive stripe of basketball. Did you see Game 5? They aren’t taking Serge Ibaka out of the game—they’re putting him in the middle of it. They’re turning his already aggravated plantaris into pate (in all likelihood, foie gras pate: an acquired taste, to be sure). They are playing bastard basketball. And it’s hilarious, and fun, and mischievous.
The Spurs are a team best enjoying as a refined and treacherous operation, who will bore you to death, perhaps mischievously, and yet, bore their way to victory.
Which is why I want them to destroy everyone in their path. Because I’m growing up. Because I’ve come to the age where the slow, pinpricking demise of one’s enemies is far more amusing than the quick and the violent; where I’d rather watch four hours of a Phillip Glass opera about nothing than attend Summer Jam; where I genuinely enjoy the weird and ephemeral not because it is those things, but because goddamnit, I’ve seen everything else, and it all lacks subtext and layers and ideas.
The Spurs may lack for excitement, but they lack not for ideas. I want the Spurs to destroy every team in their path, and all the idiot, weed-smoking, 20 year-old fans who oppose them.
I recently deleted Candy Crush from my phone.
I replaced it with a game I’ve always hated: