The Miami Heat as won their second straight NBA World Championship after beating the San Antonio Spurs in two thrilling games in Miami. The Heat now joins teams such as the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s with Dennis Rodman, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn and the mid 1990s Houston Rockets of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Kenny Smith. With another championship next season, the Heat could then join elite company, such as the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics, the Larry Bird-led 1980s Celtics, the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s and the 1990s Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan.
But with a winner, there is always a loser. While the Heat and their fans are celebrating, San Antonio and their fans are in pain. The Spurs were looking for their fifth NBA championship since 1999 and came oh so close. San Antonio could have joined the 1960s Celtics, 1980s Lakers and 1990s Bulls as five time champions. The Spurs looked to have this year’s championship in their back pockets when they led Game Six by five points with 28 seconds to play. But a Lebron James bucket, a stop and a Ray Allen fade away three pointer tied the game and sent it to overtime. The Heat again came from behind in the overtime to win 103-100.
Coming back two days later after such a devastating loss would be a tough task for the Spurs. But to their credit they battled the Heat toe to toe for the entire game. Had Lebron James and Shane Battier not been red-hot from the three point line, the Spurs would have won Game Seven. This game came down to Tim Duncan missing a shot from point blank range and then missing the tip in as well with less than 1:00 left that would have tied the game. James then hit a 17-footer to put the Heat up by four and essentially put the game away. It became official when Manu Ginobili turned the ball over underneath the basket on the next possession.
How will the Spurs be remembered? Some will remember them as a team that choked. Some will say they should be remembered as a four time champion among the game’s great teams. Some will say they are a notch below the game’s great dynasties because they never won back to back championships. But the Spurs should be remembered as a team that was excellent for 15 seasons.
Will that run extend beyond 15 years? That remains to be seen. It will be tough to recover from such a disappointing loss. Not only will they be haunted by Game Six, but Duncan will be haunted by the miss in Game Seven. It was apparent even before the game had ended that Duncan was taking it especially hard as he sat on the bench during a timeout with his head in his hands.
It took San Antonio six seasons to get back to the Finals after their previous NBA Championship in 2007. These Spurs do not have six more years under the best of circumstances. Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker are all in their mid to late 30s. So we probably just saw the last of the Spurs as a championship contender, at least as currently assembled.
The sad part of this is, despite winning four NBA Championships, this group will be remembered as the team that choked the 2013 title away. Tim Duncan is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but when he missed that shot and Lebron James then went down an made a more difficult one to win the title, it told the entire story in two trips down the floor.
Hopefully, Duncan will be remembered as a four-time champion and not as a choker. Duncan practically kept the Spurs in the last two games by himself. He scored 30 points in Game Six while Danny Green went ice cold from the three-point line and Manu Ginobili struggled. But unfortunately, the way sports works, that missed shot will be what people remember.
Since the Spurs will likely not be back, that shot will be the exclamation point of his career. And that is too bad.