In defense of the 'no-fun' San Antonio Spurs


The San Antonio Spurs aren't "fun" in the way that so many other flawed teams are, but they don't care and neither should you.

The Spurs are not fun, and I'm not going to try and convince you otherwise. They are delightful to watch on the basketball court, an efficient machine that plays smart and runs with just enough freedom to be aesthetically beautiful on occasion, if not downright pleasant to behold the rest of the time. But they are not fun.

Matt Bonner is funny, which is not the same thing as fun, and backup-backup point guard Patty Mills really seems to enjoy himself on the bench. But they're not fun any more than kale is fun.

Taken individually, there is much to admire about the Spurs. Tony Parker is a sorcerer with the ball in his hands who changes speeds like a crafty pitcher. Even though his skills have eroded a bit, Manu Ginobli is a still genius when he's not overacting. Tim Duncan is so freaking good that there has never been an interesting debate about him. Kawhi Leonard has fit so seamlessly that it feels like he already has two championships under his belt as opposed to just two seasons in the league.

On the sidelines, Gregg Popovich's plan is perfect the way the iPod is perfect. You can't imagine life before it or without it. The corner three, modern spacing and defensive principles, all of them carry Pop's imprint. He is also the coaching Id of every sarcastic asshole who ever tried to write about basketball for a living, which endears him to the very people he cuts down regularly and is probably the most enjoyable thing about the Spurs on the whole.

For a few years, the Spurs existed as a kind of charming antidote to the everyday distractions of a league that has two distinct worlds on and off the court. They were expertly run, always very good and blessedly free of the drama that consumes so much of pro basketball's world. They were your dad's favorite team if he ever considered watching the NBA in the first place. That's not even an original line. That's how not fun they are.

Since they stopped winning championships in 2007, the Spurs were respected, and that was just fine. But they rarely were considered a threat to upset the personality-driven, narrative-fueled NBA ecosystem. Until now. Consider the list of victims cut down by the Spurs on their way to the Finals.

  • The Lakers were a disaster movie unfolding in real time and our favorite League Pass drama. The Fights! The Intrigue! The Tweets! The Spurs took care of them in four games and made us feel bad about our life choices.
  • The Warriors existed in a dream-like fantasy where a scrappy underdog led by a charismatic coach and a cherubic point guard who doubled as a shooting assassin could ride the energy of a hopped-up crowd like they were a mid-major in March. The Spurs handled them in six games like the polished pros they are.
  • The Grizzlies were both Internet famous and a throwback to the 70s when teams fed the bigs in the post and everyone went out for beers after the game. The Spurs didn't just beat the Grizz, they swept them by turning the very few things that made them awesome inside out in a clinical deconstruction that wouldn't be out of place at a Sloan presentation. It goes without saying that this is not in any way fun.

The Spurs are once again what they were in their heyday: destroyers of dreams and nightmare fuel for television ratings. They await the winner of a Pacers-Heat series that has grown more epic and unpredictable by the day, silently devising schemes to make both of them less interesting.

The Spurs don't need your approval and your indifference is met with a thousand-yard Pop stare.

There are people who will tell you that not liking the Spurs reveals a character flaw on your part. These are the same people who try to make you feel bad about watching trash TV. They may have a point, but the sanctimony rings hollow because the Spurs don't need your approval and your indifference is met with a thousand-yard Pop stare. If they don't care, why should you?

There is, however, a nobility to their quest and their methods. While the rest of the world churns, constantly looking endlessly for the next big thing, they are the local establishment that endures in the face of gentrification and big-box stores. Their success can be emulated and admired, but it will never be duplicated. Not for this long, anyway.

None of that is fun, but that's not really the point. The Spurs don't exist to make you happy. They're here to be enjoyed like a perfectly-aged Pinot Noir from Pop's winery. Just like the notoriously fickle grape, they won't last forever.

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