San Antonio Spurs: Life outside the limelight

In a league where big money in big markets buys big names, the San Antonio Spurs still reign as the best team for their money.  They didn’t woo their players with promises of fame, glory, and white sand beaches, but rather grew them, molded them to play the system they believe in.  Plucked from all corners of the world, the players of the San Antonio Spurs remain the best team for their money in the NBA.

With three rings to show for in the last ten years, the Spurs continue to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, all while keeping the same core team and never exceeding the salary cap.

With teams such as the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets bolstering much of the national spotlight in recent history for pursuing only the biggest names in basketball for their teams, the Spurs remain content with building a family of players that play for each other rather than the paycheck.

One philosophy that the Spurs have come to live by is their desire for international talent.  With their core three players all being from foreign countries (Duncan of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Parker of France, and Ginobili of Argentina), San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has made it is mission to only acquire players with a “European mindset.”  Pop believes (and therefore it is true) that foreign players have a better work ethic and less of a desire for the limelight than American-born players.

Looking back at recent free agency periods where certain players that shall remain nameless have had near-full episodes of SportsCenter dedicated to the analysis of where they will next call home, it is difficult to argue against this assumption.  That being said, not all American players are dependent on the spotlight, and the Spurs have found one in particular that fit the European standard.

Enter Kawhi Leonard.

san antonio spurs

Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich (photo cred: fansided.com)

Leonard, a 2011 draft pick out of San Diego State, is a bland, soft-spoken small forward that has shown tendencies to be the cornerstone for the Spurs’ future.  After averaging a double-double in the Finals in only his second year, Spurs fans have a reason to be excited.  Popovich has other reasons to be excited, however.  During Spurs media day this summer, on question was directed at Leonard, asking if he did anything fun this summer.  After all, he is a 23 year-old NBA player that just got the most spotlight he ever had in his life.

“No.”

No elaboration.  No reason as to why he didn’t, just that working on his game isn’t fun.  One can only imagine how big Popovich’s smile was after these words were spoken.  The stone-faced player that Pop desired in the draft is becoming the exact player he hoped to mold him into.

With a roster of a record-breaking nine players born outside the continental United States, the Spurs continue to live by their philosophy set by their coach.  With the addition of the selfless Kawhi Leonard as well, there is no reason for the Spurs to ever make the headlines for in-team controversy.

They live to play together, for each other, and for heir coach, not for the ever-present spotlight of the national media.  Nothing more should ever be expected, or wanted for that matter, in the small-market city of San Antonio.