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Monday 22 September 2014

Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan get their Disney ending

Michael McCarthy

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

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Tim Duncan (centre) with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs celebrate after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tim Duncan (centre) with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs celebrate after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Sport can be considered a metaphor for life, and like life, the good guys rarely win. Even more often, it's hard to tell who the good guys are.

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The San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA title on Sunday, ending LeBron James' and the Miami Heat's hopes for three-in-a-row, and avenged their defeat last year which came in the cruellest of ways – the ultimate in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

It was a fifth title since 1999 for coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan, possibly the greatest power forward to play basketball.

Popovich is notoriously surly with the media but beloved by everyone in the game and almost universally renowned as the greatest coach alive.

On Sunday night, he sat alone on the bench as his team celebrated, holding back tears. He lurked in the background of the trophy presentation, almost feeling he shouldn't be there. He's a coach, not a celebrity.

Duncan is known, almost derisively, as 'The Big Fundamental'. There's a perception that the Spurs' brand of basketball is boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they are is consistent, and a team, not a bunch of loudmouth superstars, something we've had to endure with other great NBA teams.

Duncan was emotional on Sunday. He knows his amazing run is coming to an end. Last year hurt them, and this was pure redemption. Even in that moment, he was keen to play down his achievements. He's not a limelight hog. Because of this, he probably has the most skewed achievement-to-profile ratio in sport.

There's plenty more to the Spurs' story in 2014. Kawhi Leonard, the next generation of San Antonio superstar, won the Finals MVP at just 22, the youngest to do so since Duncan in '99.

He missed a free throw to ice the game and championship last year before the Heat's insane comeback.

And we haven't even mentioned Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the other members of the Spurs' 'Big Three'. Both won their fourth title on Sunday.

Ginobili, who was given up for dead after a lacklustre performance in last year's finals, was immense in this series. Ultimately though, the narrative feels like Popovich and Duncan bookending their incredible 16-year run together.

Last year was the shock at the end of a movie you didn't see coming. The Empire reigned supreme just when you thought Luke Skywalker had it sewn up.

This year was pure Disney. We're in no doubt who the heroes are, and though there was some speed-bumps along the way, ultimately we ended up with glory and tears of joy for two of the greatest people ever to be associated with a sport.

MMCC

Irish Independent

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