Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pounding the Rock

For those of you who don’t know, I am a San Antonio Spurs fan.  I grew up in San Antonio cheering on the hometown heroes first in HemisFair Arena, then in the Alamodome, and now in the AT&T Center.  I worship the names David Robinson, Sean Elliot, Bruce Bowen, Avery Johnson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan and somewhere I even have a George Gervin autograph.  I have an affinity in my heart for every player to ever wear the Spur logo.  I have bled silver and black since I was little and even now, though I live in the midst of Rocket fan, I  proudly sport my Spurs gear.  More than just a sports team, the Spurs have long taught me about life, leading through their uncommon example in today’s sports world.

One of the most honorable and respected athletes I have ever seen was David Robinson.  Besides sporting the most amazing physical stature ever (Michelangelo would have loved for Mr. Robinson to pose for his statue of David), Mr. Robinson lead the Spurs with a pure heart and dedicated spirit.  He truly was the Admiral, not only for the pre-Duncan Spurs, but for the city, piloting the team to heights unimaginable while instilling San Antonio with a sense of pride and worth.  For as long as I live, David Robinson will always stand as a pinnacle of a value driven life.
Tim Duncan, truly the greatest Spur to ever play the game, has for years educated me on how to handle adversity.  Always known as a mild mannered player, Timmy has quietly handled the pressure of his role as team Atlas, hoisting the Spurs onto his shoulders from the first day he arrived in the city.  Known as the Big Fundamental, Duncan’s dedication to his individual foundation as an athlete has long primed him - and the Spurs - for success.  It is not a coincidence that, since the Spurs’ drafted him first in 1997, the franchise regular season winning percentage has been 70%.
Beyond being an amazing athlete, Duncan has long been the face of calm on the court.  His quiet ways haven’t earned him a national following like some other showy sports superstars, but it has definitely earned a place of respect among his peers, sports pundits, and San Antonio fans.  Every time he steps on the court, Tim teaches a clinic on the value of peace in the face of adversity.
I have long understood the value of Greg Popovich, but until yesterday’s Game Three playoff win against the Clippers, I never truly understood where exactly I should place him in my Spur’s pantheon.  Pop’s argues he is just the luckiest coach in the history of sports, but as most Pop devotees would argue, that is simply not the case.  Game Three was a tribute to the reason Pop has been just as key to the Spurs’ success as his players.  Back in the 1990s, Pop placed a quote in the Spurs’ locker room.  The quote, taken from immigration reformer Jacob Riis, has been the impetus for Spurs’ play sense
When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Though the Spurs were down 33-11 at the end of the first quarter against a freshly reinvigorated Clippers team, they never gave up.  Instead, they pounded the rock.  Through Pop’s teaching, they knew their consistent efforts lead to results.  And so, they pounded.  And pounded.  And pounded.  By the end of the third quarter, the rock had split and the Spurs controlled the game the rest of the way, winning their seventeenth straight game.
Popovich’s dedication to his method, his willingness to reinvent their basketball style to fit their needs (and frankly just to keep it exciting), and most importantly, to teach a philosophy of life centered on perseverance through belief in your own efforts, places him high in my pantheon.  His lessons on how to accomplish translate to any effort: individual or team, personal or corporate, small or large.  
While the Spurs organization doesn’t seek to establish itself as a life coach or to hit the road on a tour of motivational speeches, they certainly could.  I am who I am partially due to the Spurs and what they have shown consistently since I was young.  And though I don’t live there anymore, you can bet that I will always hold the San Antonio Spurs organization in the highest regards where ever I live.

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