Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is defended by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the fourth quarter of game four of the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. San Antonio defeated Miami 86-107. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Insanity has erupted down in South Beach as the Heat undergo a crazy transformation. All the while, the San Antonio Spurs remain steady.
LeBron James and Tim Duncan remarkably different successes
What makes the NBA such an unusual and interesting league is the variations in which teams can find success. Nothing illustrates that better than the previous two championship participants, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. On the one side is a team built through sheer spending. Miami used collusion and smart negotiating to lure superstar LeBron James in to team with All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the “Big Three.” What result was four Finals appearances and two championships. On the other side is the San Antonio Spurs. A marvel of continuity, they found success through good drafting and savvy trading, exemplified by future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. A running theme in pro sports has always been that the best teams are built through the draft. Five NBA championships is hard to argue with for the Spurs, but what the Heat have accomplished proves that there is no perfect way to win in pro basketball.
Pat Riley has seen NBA history reflect this
Few know how to achieve success in the sport more than Pat Riley. The funny thing is he’s seen these two mode of thinking collide before. Back when he was head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, he was at the head of a team that was built largely through the draft with mainstays like Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper, and James Worthy. Their greatest nemesis of the era was of course the Boston Celtics. While draft picks Larry Bird and Kevin McHale comprised most of their core, their formidable roster was aided greatly by trades and free agency, most notably center Robert Parish, point guard Dennis Johnson and reserve center Bill Walton. Collectively the two teams won eight championships in the decade and met three times in the Finals.
If there is any message to be read in what the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat represent, it’s that neither is 100% in the right when it comes to winning in the NBA. What matters is not how the team is formed, it’s which side can get the most out of what they have.