Please consider reading this blog to your young sons or grandsons who play sport. And forward it to some parent or grandparent who you think might like to do the same thing.
Letter 1 was about Tim Tebow.
Letter 2 here is about the San Antonio Spurs.
Jaden, I hope you were able to watch the USA Men’s basketball NBA championship games between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. The Spurs won the championship series 4-1 this week, their 5th championship in 15 years, which is a remarkable achievement. Its called a dynasty.
It all started with Tim Duncan, from the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, who was recruited by the San Antonio coach in 1997. Coach Popovich (usually called Pop) spent a long time with Duncan discussing their future together. Duncan is now 38, which is old for an NBA player, and they call him Old Man Riverwalk in honor of the enchanting Riverwalk that makes San Antonio famous, along with the Alamo.
The five championships have been built around the Big Three players: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker (from France) and Manu Ginobili (from Argentina). In the Spurs’ list of their top ten players, most are from other countries. One new player, Patty Mills, is from Australia and an Aboriginal from the Torres-Strait Island family. Mills is a point-guard who scored 17 points off the bench in the final championship game.
He drilled three 3-point shots in a row in the third quarter which brought the house down. Mills attributes his determination and success to adversities his family has overcome. His mother was a part of the Stolen Generation, one of Australia’s dark moments. In support of Patty Mills, Coach Pop had recently honored Mabo Day, which paved the way for legal recognition of land rights for Aboriginal peoples.
In their convincing wins over the Heat, Coach Pop told his team to move the ball until they found a player open. Don’t hold the ball and wait until a superstar gets to shoot. The players, from many different countries, had to learn to speak together as well as play together. They were not raised in the USA and so realized that their own country was not the brightest star on the world stage.
All this led to humility, which was visible to everyone who watched the Spurs play. Humility and teamwork were what was different about this team. In contrast Lebron James announced before the final game “that he was going to be more aggressive from the outset and not worry so much about getting teammates involved in the early minutes”. **
The other factor that drove the Spurs was game 6 in 2013, when the Spurs were up by 5 with only 40 seconds to play. Everyone thought they had won the game and the championship. However two miraculous threes in the dying seconds allowed Miami to win the game, and they went on to win the championship.
This stunning loss stung Coach Pop and particularly Duncan so badly, it stuck in the back of their minds and drove them to the best record of all teams in 2014, and finally to win the championship.
Finally the MVP of the championship was awarded to Kawhi Leonard who is only 22 (third youngest ever). Tim Duncan had won the MVP at the age of 23, 15 years previously when the Spurs won the first of their five championships. Leonard won the MVP trophy on Father’s Day, six years after his dad was killed in an unsolved California shooting.
According to Coach Pop, “He walks the walk. I mean, he’s there early, he’s there late. And he wants more. He wants me and the coaches to push him”. It’s called a great work-ethic. Although Leonard played the first two games of the championship poorly (less than 10 points each game) Coach Pop lectured him to be more aggressive. “The hell with Tony, the hell with Timmy, the hell with Manu.
You play the game. You are the man”. Leonard came out and scored 29 points in game 3. And 22 points, 10 rebounds in game 5. He also guarded successfully Lebron James who is the best basketballer in the world, and reduced his usual domination. Kawhi is shy and humble and, most importantly, teachable. And he has a tattoo on his shoulder with a cross and the words Fear God.
Jaden, here are some valuable learnings from the San Antonio Spurs that will serve you well as you continue in your sports career. You are already a good player in basketball, football, and baseball, and these tips, if you take them to heart, will make you even better.
• Nothing beats a great work-ethic (a fancy name for hard work), as Kawhi Leonard has shown us.
• A tough loss can drive a team to a higher level. Don’t be bitter about a loss, but don’t forget it. Use it to motivate you to get back there.
• Tim Duncan’s solid performance all year and in the finals inspires us that neither age nor an awful loss last year need destroy our attitude or finish our sports career. If we fail at something, we are only a failure if we give up and stop trying.
• Humility leads to better teamwork (i.e. no superstar hogging the ball).
Also, humility means the players are teachable, and this was evident whenever Coach Pop on the bench talked to any of his players, even his best players.
• Humility means players always acknowledge their own team players and their coach, rather than take the glory for themselves. Humility also means, for some players, to give thanks to God for the gift of life that enables them to play, and for the mind-body skill that enables them to play well. Jaden, I hope and pray that you become one of these kind of players.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke chapter 18).
** Tim Reynolds, Associated Press.
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