The San Antonio Spurs aren’t exactly a lightning rod for criticism around the rest of the league.
During their reign of dominance, the worst thing that critics could say about them was that they were too fundamentally sound and not glaringly flawed enough to ever be a major draw amongst casual fans.
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The NBA thrives off of marketing teams and players as both heroes and villains, and the best cases involve figures with numerous fans as well as huge numbers of detractors. It’s up for debate whether more fans like LeBron James or hate him, but what can’t be questioned is his ability to make people care about basketball.
During the Spurs’ dynasty of the past decade and a half, often times they’ve been labeled as the “boring” alternative to flashier, more brash teams. TV ratings of NBA Finals participated in by the Spurs seem to encourage this judgement, especially when it hasn’t been a Finals against a superstar player like James.
There are no compelling reasons to passionately root against the Spurs. Their players aren’t overtly arrogant or act entitled to the lifestyle they’ve been blessed to live.
Dec 18, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on the sidelines against the Los Angeles Clippers at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
They don’t rely on a large market to draw big free agents, or assume that championships can be bought. The majority of their core players have either been drafted and developed by them, or were nondescript acquisitions that they were able to transform into overachievers compared to what they once were.
They have built their dynasty the right way, and it makes any hatred thrown their direction seem especially petty. Tim Duncan didn’t become one of the most respected and well-liked stars due to a vivaciously affable personality. We don’t see how he acts behind closed doors, but he appears to be a quiet, earnestly hard-working guy who just wants to strive for success.
It’s a fantastic character foil for the stereotypical bombastic athlete, and his talent and uniqueness within his field makes it easy to root for him.
As a quiet leader, his teammates over the years have gladly followed his example of how a professional should conduct himself.
An easy comparison is Barry Sanders. In a league overflowing with glitz and braggadocios personalities, Sanders would simply hand the ball to the referee after scoring instead of any celebratory attention-seeking. All he cared about was helping his team win.
Duncan has a similar mindset, and if that made the Spurs “boring” to certain people, then that’s their loss, because they’ve missed out on some great basketball.