I’m gonna resurrect Rudy T’s famous quote: Never underestimate the heart of a champion.
Now when Tomjonovich spoke that now famous phrase, the San Antonio Spurs were 62-20 that year and were in the midst of a rough playoff Western Conference series against them that year. As a matter of fact, the team lost to the Rockets, 4-2.
But there is something about how that Spurs team, even way back in 1994-95, were looking to reach the promise land and it had something to do with the continuity of the front office; i.e., Gregg Popovich.
Let’s fast forward 2006 and when the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Spurs in the WCF.
That was one series in which the Mavs beat the Spurs but yet instead of realizing what they had done was nothing to brag about, that team went into the NBA Finals far too cocky for its own good and too immature as to what was needed to win the last one.
It didn’t matter that Avery Johnson was their head coach.
It didn’t matter that the coaching staff had guys who understood what was at stake.
Heck it didn’t matter that even Jason Kidd was there and he had been to the ‘promise land’ and yet he never crossed over to reap the benefits of winning a title.
That 2006 team was hyped beyond belief and they all, to a man, for the most part thought that winning that series was what it took to make you a champion.
In reality, not only has that been proven false by how that 2006 team collapsed in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, it also became a sort of blue print for how things go with that team when adversity comes into play.
Rudy T’s statement isn’t so much about the hardware that is at the end of the quest but about a mindset that teams must have.
You can tell what kind of mindset an organization has by how it goes about conducting itself in pressure situations.
You can also tell by how their personnel are put together.
San Antonio, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Boston all have individuals who understand the winning of a title and the process that is needed to get there. Upstarts like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic are figuring out the puzzle.
They are still stuck on the ‘celebrate’ dial from 2006.
Just because you have beaten a team in last year’s series doesn’t mean you have the upper hand now. Just because you destroyed them this year doesn’t mean you have it figured out. And just because you beat them in the first game of the current series doesn’t mean you’re a dangerous squad either.
To have heart of a champion means having the desire to win at almost any cost.
It means that to a man, from the lowest of a ball boy to the owner, you are conducting the ‘bizness’ of winning at title. You are not running your mouth to a camera crew like Mark Cuban did. You are not saying something negative like Joakim Noah did about Cleveland.
You are stepping into a lion’s den, picking up the jawbone of an ass and swinging for the fences.
As a franchise, you are looking for the ultimate prize and that means that hard work, not sound bites of non-sense, is warranted.
It is why a team like the Cavaliers can be mentioned as potential NBA titleholders.
It is why the Lakers will always be the favorites.
It is why San Antonio is still mentioned as an upset winner in the conference even though everyone has got them falling in this series.
It is why the Atlanta Hawks are who they are right now.
When you stop celebrating the one game victories and a series here or there as if you have already won the big one, you become dangerous.
When the Mavs, and I mean from the owner down, decide to stop pussy footing around and trying to talk their way into championship status, that is when people will respect them more.
Until then, talk is cheap and opinions are like rectums.
Everyone has one.
Some just know when to use one or the other and not let them both become synonymous with their personalities.