Of all the magnificent coaching that occurs on high school, AAU, college and NBA courts across the world, a basketball should not be touched prior to viewing the last three games of the just-completed NBA championship series.
What the San Antonio Spurs did was impressive enough to the casual observer. A trio of consecutive double-digit wins over the invincible Miami Heat and what some erroneously referred to as the greatest player ever, LeBron James. The team's fifth World Championship in the last 15 years. A balanced outfit that mysteriously looked better than the defending champs because they were.
And to the delight of us who have seen more days than we will in the future, it was a clinic of a performance to savor. It was as old-school as it gets. Pick-and-rolls, lightning-quick passing, a patterned, yet freewheeling offense that not only exposed the Heat's lack of half-court defense, but showcased the natural abilities of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. And as we all saw, they have another greyhound in their stable. Young Kawhi Leonard tied Duncan's record for the youngest Finals MVP ever. Danny Green, Boris Diaw and others contributed. And of course, the coach, Gregg Popovich.
In the words of new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, "you showed the world how beautiful this game is."
Now I admit I've gone kicking and screaming into that night that is the modern era of the game. In retrospect, if we had it to do over again, I'd allow the 3-point shot and outlaw the dunk. John Wooden, the legendary Wizard of Westwood at UCLA, warned the game would lose with the advent of the dunk. Ever watch Sportscenter these days? If it's a basketball highlight, it's a dunk, never a series of great ball movement or team defense.
In the end, I felt sorry for the Heat. They were beaten like a Mike Tyson foe of old. Punished. Made to beg for no more. The swagger was long gone and the lack of understanding of this kind of basketball like a foreign language.
I don't know if anyone on the Heat would play the Spurs' style of basketball, unless it's Dwayne Wade, now reduced to a bystander of the next clear-out for James. I don't know if he's hurt, he's lost his enthusiasm for the game because of the style forced upon him or what. But a weak pulse was all he had in the playoffs.
Let's be clear. I'm not a James basher. There has never been a physical specimen as gifted as he. A hulking 270 pounds to go with his 6-foot-8-inch frame, his outside shot has improved leaps and bounds since he came on the NBA scene. He desperately wants to win.
But what he doesn't do that Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did is make the players around him better. You think Robert Parish would have ever won a ring without Bird? Believe Kareem could have played forever without Magic? Think anybody would have ever heard about Scottie Pippin if not for Jordan?
Nobody is more well-known nor any more accomplished than they were pre-LeBron. And by today's standards, Duncan is 5-1 in the finals career-wise, James now 2-3.
All this is not to insist there's only one way to play the game. Obviously, unstructured, sheer speed and leaping offenses will thrive, go-for-broke defenses will return. But for three glorious games in June of 2014, the game was played the way Dr. Naismith had in mind when he hung the first peach basket.
Never has the observation of the mercurial Scott Skiles, the All-American at Michigan State, then NBA star and coach, been more accurate.
"Basketball is a lot like church," he lamented. "Many attend. Few understand."
The Spurs do.
Phil Paramore's column appears Tuesdays in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekdays from 11-1 on AM 560 The Ball, 100.1 FM, www.woofradio.com or any of the stations free phone apps.