About 35 miles outside of Miami near the town of Homestead sits an “unusual accomplishment” that is part mystery and part engineering marvel known as the Coral Castle. This collection of carved stone was built by one many over 28 years using simple tools as well as methods unknown. Somehow, a slight man that stood just over 5 feet tall was able to quarry, carve, move, and otherwise manipulate with exacting precision over 1,100 tons of local coral limestone. This man, Edward Leedskalnin, offered tours of his compound with great excitement and enthusiasm, and when asked how he built the place often simply said, “ it is easy when you know how.” Many theories abound as to how the Coral Castle came to be, but it is unlikely that we will ever know just how Ed completed his life’s work.
Besides that obvious connection to the famous quote by Jacob Riis that has been associated with the Spurs during the era of RC Buford and Gregg Popovich, I tell you this story because I see other parallels to the team we all love.
To build a successful team, both financially and competitively, in places like Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, New York, or even Miami is not something that I would give a high difficulty rating to. However, doing the same in San Antonio has required effort that none of us can truly comprehend. San Antonio possesses the 37th largest TV market and 85th highest median wage in the country, yet year in and year out they manage to field a competitive team that challenges for the league championship and often wins it. How do they manage this? It is easy if you know how.
Sure, you could offer up the same tired comments about lucking into both David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but other teams have been given similar opportunities and haven’t necessarily shared the same success. LA was able to draft Magic, Chicago got Jordan, Cleveland netted LeBron, Portland landed Oden, the then Sonics grabbed Durant. The truly great teams succeeded on the court because they were more than just the players on the court. They had good coaches, good trainers, good scouting, good marketing, good management, and good luck.
How does one man stack or stand stones weighing many times his own body weight so exactly that they remain standing many years after their construction despite being hit by hurricanes and otherwise exposed to the elements? How does one man create a revolving 30 ton stone gate that operates so smoothly that a small child could push it open? One does one team build itself with mostly unknown or unwanted parts to become the most competitively successful professional sports team of the last 13 years? It is easy if you know how.
As the window of opportunity represented by Tim Duncan slowly inches its way closed, let’s all take a few minutes to recognize the enormous effort required to stay at the top of the heap while working at a disadvantage (no knock on SA, as it is a great city, it however cannot offer the same monetary support of a place like LA or NY) and the enormous amount of talent and knowledge required to sustain that effort.