Full disclosure – I’m a San Antonio Spurs fan, an avid Spurs fan. Many of these insights are taken from watching the Spurs throughout the entire NBA playoffs. However, most of them were observed during the finals against the Miami Heat. The following are life lessons we can all draw from the NBA playoffs.
1. Greatness grows in the garden of teamwork. During game three, San Antonio made 71 points in the first half. Kawhi Leonard was asked after the game, “How did San Antonio make 19 out of 21 shots in the first quarter. He responded, “We believe in one another and trusted one another.” San Antonio moved the ball with incredible passing efficiency to one another. San Antonio achieved the best record in the NBA during the regular season and went on to win the championship because they developed a team spirit. It enabled them to believe in one another and trust each other. After the final game, Leonard, who said that teamwork was the key to success, was awarded “Most Valuable Player” of the NBA Finals.
2. Growing old is not all that bad. The Spurs big three were all in their thirties, old for the NBA; Duncan 38, Ginobili 36, and Parker 32. Many people thought they were too old to go all the way. They proved them wrong. They showed the power of inter-generational work. They combined the wisdom and experience of age with the explosiveness of youth to become champions.
3. Honesty. When each team lost, they didn’t try to make excuses. They took responsibility and made the necessary changes. When the Spurs lost game two, they made critical changes in the lineup and in their attitudes. They shocked everyone with a historic performance in game three. The Heat’s coach said that the biggest surprise to him was what happened in game four and how the Spurs played.
4. Humility. Local fans have often heard players like Manu Ginobili say after a win, “We must stay humble.” At the close of the final game, one announcer commented, “The humility of the Spurs players has been amazing to watch.”
5. Seeing potential in people. Coach Greg Popovich has a knack for seeing potential in people that others miss. He saw potential in Kawhi Leonard when others passed over him. He saw something in Boris Diaw that Charlotte didn’t recognize. He saw the same thing in an indigenous Australian player, Patty Mills.
6. It’s not over until it’s over. The Spurs experienced a heartbreaking loss last year in the finals against the Heat. No one expected them to return this year with such fire blazing in their bones. They not only overcame their great disappointment, but they had the best record in the NBA and fought their way to the finals. They became the champions because they refused to give up.
Character creates champions, and heart enables them to exceed all expectations. My prayer is, “Lord, give me the heart and character of a champion.”