I’m still riding the high. It’s been a full 3 days now and I can still feel the electricity that San Antonio fans have relished in for the past 18 years.
I remember when a young Tim Duncan and the Spurs faced the Knicks in the 1999 Finals. 19 year old me sat in the 200 level section of Madison Square Garden with my father. Pops calmly watched our Knicks trudge through the first half of game 3 while I was yelling like an irate coach every 30 seconds. Coming out of the East as an 8th seed, my pops’s expectations were tempered. Much like this year vs. the Heat, the Spurs were just better at certain positions. But it didn’t matter that the Knicks were facing the best 1-2 combination of big men the league had seen in years. At the personal level, it was about getting caught up in the excitement and enjoying the bonding experience a father and son share through sports.
It’s interesting how life comes full circle.
On Sunday, I sat 10 rows from the court at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. I watched Tim Duncan come out and knock down jumper after jumper; the same way I’d done 15 years previously. As I watched the usual pre-game warm-ups, it hit me. That night lives were going to change dramatically. Forever.
Nobody will understand the heaviness that loomed over the Spurs locker room from last year’s series. Nobody will understand how Spurs players wanted this, not only for themselves, but for their leaders. Because underneath it all, there were the human emotions of pride and revenge. So when Tim Duncan proudly proclaimed at the end of the Game 6 win vs. OKC, “we’ve got 4 more games to win. We’ll do it this time”, that feeling 19 year old James had re-surfaced. I knew that I was about to witness something truly special.
Winning a championship game on home court has its own set of tear-jerk moments. In the midst of the celebrations and champagne showers, my thoughts drifted back to my dad. I recalled how he always reminded me to never become comfortable. I remember when I was rehabbing my knee, every morning, he would call or text me to say “never stop fighting.” Once I entered the corporate world, he told me to never accept other people’s limits on my life. I look at the Spurs 5th championship run and see so many lessons from my father woven in subtly.
Things seldom go how you plan, no matter how hard you work to make it so. But you have to consistently tell yourself that life happens 24 hours at a time. What happened yesterday, last week, last year doesn’t matter. You can’t fully focus on the goal in front of you if you harp on why you didn’t meet the goal on previous occasions. It took the Spurs 7 years to win their 5th ring. In that time, the roster changed. Hell, the schematic of the entire league changed as new stars arose and competition intensified. However, the focus of the Spurs franchise never change. Winning mindsets never do.
I watched quietly on Sunday as many of the players and men of the Spurs organization embrace their kids on Father’s Day. Tim Duncan jumping into The Admiral’s arms. Players’ wives beaming. I saw the pride in all of their sons and daughters’ eyes. I mean, how cool is it to know your dad has a championship ring? When I got home today, I finally had a moment to chill and take it all in. And the only thing I could think to myself was that the nostalgic father/son bond that I’d shared with my dad 15 years ago has been reborn. Father’s Day is now attached to the memory of one of the best days of my life.