EXAMINING SPORTS: International flavor brings unselfish personality to Spurs

matt examiningsports

There is not a better teaching tool right now for young basketball players than watching the San Antonio Spurs play the game.

In a sport that continues to be taken over by individuals, the Spurs have shown that unselfish attitudes and teamwork can trump superior talent as they have jumped out to a 3-1 lead over Miami in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James is the best player in the world. But even the King can’t do enough to overcome a bunch of hungry, team-first guys that are rarely talked about among the best at their positions in the NBA.

Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the other two parts of the Big Three, are getting outclassed by lower paid and less talked about scrappers from the Spurs.

It is truly a treat to watch San Antonio play. The Spurs relish getting each other involved. They take enjoyment in making the extra pass and finding the open shooter.

San Antonio has built its style using a team approach. The international flavor of the Spurs has been a big reason in creating that.

Tony Parker (France), Boris Diaw (France), Patty Mills (Australia), Marco Belinelli (Italy), Tiago Splitter (Brazil) and Manu Ginobli (Argentina) are all talented players, but their biggest asset is a willingness to accept their roles.

Throw those six players together with a core of three other grounded, humble standouts in Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, and the Spurs boast a “basketball IQ” that is off the charts. They are like a puzzle, with each piece fitting perfectly together.

There was a time when the United States dominated basketball on a global level. But in recent years, the European countries have closed the gap. The equalizer has been that foreign teams seem to play together better than American teams.

In the U.S., the AAU impact has allowed basketball to become centered more on the individual than on the team. When high school kids are playing in AAU, the main desire is to attract college interest. Many of them feel that in order to get noticed, they have to take over games.

What has been lost is a focus on fundamentals. One-on-one moves and jacking up threes have become the norm instead of learning how to correctly run an offense.  

The term “bench player” has become derogatory in our culture. If you are not a starter, it is a slight.  But as the Spurs have shown, teams that have players willing to come off the bench for the good of the team can build a decided advantage over the opposition.

The glory years of the NBA during the 80s and early 90s had plenty of big names with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, but that era also was built on the power of the team. Bird, Magic and MJ were great teammates and their teams had players that unselfishly filled their roles.

More and more foreign players continue to flood the NBA. With the way the Spurs are rolling right now, it is easy to see why there continues to be a growing desire by our teams to bring them here.