These Finals, A Triumph for Sportsmanship and Professionalism
These Finals have been a gift from the basketball Gods. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have squared off in a series that, although it includes three blowouts, has been thoroughly entertaining. An under-discussed reason for why this is so, is the lack of extra-curricular activities on the court. Namely fighting and foul play altogether.
This series has been victimized by – up to this point – zero technical fouls by players and zero flagrant fouls. This hasn’t taken away anything from the physical play of the series, in fact one could argue both Tony Parker and LeBron James have failed to be delivered a proper amount of foul calls despite their takes to the rim. There’s yet to be a foul call that could be realistically perceived as “dirty” and there seems to be an underlying respect between both teams, for each other, that’s made for a series that resonates as an emotional chess match, as opposed to a destruction derby.
Yet many fans across the globe argue that the game is too “soft” nowadays. They miss the times when teams were applauded for not shaking hands with their opposition post-game and their players wouldn’t mingle pre-game. Apparently, basketball was better in these instances. The logic behind this baffles me, as this series has been a perpetual display of basketball excellence.
How could this be with everyone being so respectful and professional with each other? A better question would be, why don’t the people saying these things go watch the UFC? Basketball was never a game of barbarianism in it’s essence, and it’s only human that tempers flare occasionally leading to the prevalent scrapping and fighting and shoving and name-calling and trash-talking (though this could be considered at times a mental ploy) and childish behavior we have seen, do see, and will always see in professional basketball.
I call these acts childish behavior not because I want to see them written off, but because in actuality that’s what they are. I love seeing these things occur sporadically because it displays (sometimes) the players’ efforts on the court maximizing and eventually producing an emotional response. Other times it can be very barbaric, immature and unnecessary, which are often incorrectly portrayed as toughness and strength.
This series takes a stand against all of that. Both teams have shown how mature and poised they are at sticking to what their goal is – outplaying their opposition – without hating them or sinking them down to the level where billionaires make money off of fans watching players purposely trying to harm each other. Both teams have found themselves into a frustrating rut more than once in the four games that have been played yet have remained calm and submitted themselves to the confines of the game. In this sense, these Finals are at a completely different tier compared to others.
The lack of technical fouls means there’s a beautiful and I mean BEAUTIFUL regression in complaining to referees. Less pouting and more playing is never something to complain about, and it’s been a welcome reality in these Finals. What’s so impressive on the flagrant fouls side is that these fouls aren’t just an emotional thing, but can be an incidental occurrence.
Say Kawhi Leonard falls asleep for a moment while LeBron runs around the Heat’s patented curl play for him to get him space in the middle of the floor, (where has this been?) he decides to cut under the two screens and meet him right under the basket, where he’s too late and instead of swiping at the ball he whacks James right in the noggin. This is a very possible occurrence, (maybe minus the Leonard falling asleep part) where a mis-timing or poor judgement of trajectory could lead to an illegal hit. Both teams have not allowed this to happen though, so in addition to controlling their emotions, the lack of flagrants have also demonstrated just how smart these squads are, and how well they execute.
The Finals have been flooded with the same inaccurate, overused narratives that continue spawning unintelligent and ridiculous debates regarding individual point totals and assumptions predicated from a single game. Unfortunately, this has taken away attention from, not only one of the most competitive Finals (even in large win margins) we’ve seen, but also one of the cleanest and most professional ones. If you think otherwise, fight me.