There’s a stench on the San Antonio Spurs, a kind of ruffled-nose funk that usually follows a condo hallway full of Chinese food or two kids making out on the train. Mention watching Spurs basketball and people will make faces or leave the room; mention being a fan and they’ll do both. That San Antonio is the best team in the NBA right now, when they shouldn’t be, and reign as the finest sports franchise since the Canadiens of the 1970s, doesn’t count for shit. They’re the Spurs, the one unwatchable team in the NBA, the embodiment of athletic homework whose coach wears wide-wale corduroys and whose stars are a Frenchman, a flopper, and a nerd in league with metalhead database administrators. But all the arguments against the Spurs are wrong.
Let’s examine the two basic ones:
Their players are boring.
Everyone hates Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan; everybody is also wrong. Let’s start with Duncan, oft criticized for being boring as shit both on and off the court and for having a Merlin tattoo. While he does indeed have said tattoo, and it looks like his sister cuts his hair once a month in the garage, calling him boring is missing the point. There’s the depressing fact that all NBA players are kind of dweebs; he just owns it. And there’s the incredibly impressive fact that a giant, outsized nerd also happens to be the best player of his generation and wears skeleton sneakers. People with Duncan’s interests—stamp collecting, Semaphore code, COBOL—are generally not elite athletes, and yet to call Duncan elite would be an understatement. He’s the best player to ever play his position, period. Yes, Duncan looks more bored than an IT guy and has a reputation for being a crybaby, but what do you expect? He started playing basketball because the only pool in his country was hit by lightning and he was afraid of sharks. He doesn’t want to be doing this. Like his T-shirt says, he’d rather be playing Diablo.
Duncan, of course, joins the rest of the NBA in not being nearly as cool as Parker. With all due respect to LeBron James and his entry-level J Crew wardrobe, or Kevin Garnett’s awe-inspiring sweater vest collection, or, reaching deeper, Nick Young’s swaggy style (American Eagle Outfitters in smedium, mostly), Tony Parker is the elite player, the athletic specimen, the snappier dresser and the cool motherfucker. He’s not as tall as most of the NBA, which helps, and he’s also a fast-as-shit champion, millionaire French playboy. Christ, what more do you want? Parker, lest we forget, was married to a TV star seven years older than him, and convinced her to move to South Texas(!), and yet he still found time to get nude with one of his teammates’ wives. As you read this, he’s wearing a Le Coq Sportif sweatsuit and eating a $400 hamburger with your sister. And if you think he’s not American enough, he lives in Texas. Where do you live, comrade?
As for the rest of the team, Matt Bonner is the best three-point shooter in the NBA and has red hair; Stephen Jackson’s backstory is as impressive as anyone in sports; Boris Diaw makes millions of dollars playing sports despite being fucking fat.
I’m sick of the Spurs.
Wah, wah, I’m sick of hearing about a bank-shot shooting, corner-three making, transition-D, slow-ass team, you might say. To which I respond, better the Spurs than the Knicks or the Heat. Leaving aside the thorny issue of ESPN’s Heat Index—no one outside Dade County needs to read daily updates about Mike Miller—San Antonio is a team worth infinitely reading about. There are the cool dudes on the team (see above), there’s the team’s stretching success, and their incredible transition to uptempo basketball. What do the Knicks have? A history of failing incompetence so strong that a solitary playoff win is considered success. The NBA defensive player of the year who can’t even make first-team all defense; Carmelo Anthony in general. The Spurs, on the other hand, are somehow a young team with an insane offense, three old stars and a No. 1 seed, and have been in the championship conversation pretty much every year since the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The press has nothing to do with rooting allegiances; it’s just that the franchise is fucking impressive.
Look, the Spurs aren’t as exciting on paper as the Thunder; I get that. Kevin Durant is a bad motherfucker and Russell Westbrook is shockingly getting to that level. Still, the Spurs don’t deserve their rough reputation among moron half-awake check-in basketball fans. They are the NBA’s model franchise, the most consistently winning team, and now its most impressively updated. While it’s a bit of a stretch to say if you don’t enjoy the Spurs, you don’t enjoy basketball, it’s totally true that if you don’t like the Spurs, you’re either from Houston, Dallas or a wall-eyed moron. In an age where few teams’ nuclei stay together and fewer remain great, San Antonio is doing something special. If you don’t appreciate that, you’re a little “special” yourself.