It could certainly be argued that, as professional sports franchises go, the San Antonio Spurs have been the classiest of them all over the years.
True, winning has a bit to do with it (and they've won plenty, including several NBA championships), but it's far from everything. Lots of teams have been dominant but lacked class.
Some were too arrogant -- see "America's team". Others had issues -- see Spy and Deflate gates, not to mention one of their star players getting convicted of murder not long ago -- then taking his own life in jail. Some tried to invent their own class -- see "Showtime". Still others tried to buy it by throwing obscene amounts of money around to procure the best players. And it's darn near impossible to exude class if your team hasn't been any good since forever -- see a football team in Detroit.
Few would doubt longtime Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is as good as any coach has ever been. It should also be noted that the players over the years have kept their proverbial noses clean. You haven't heard of Spurs players involved in DUIs, domestic incidents, drugs, or other not-so-good antics. It simply won't be tolerated in San Antonio. For this, they deserve a huge amount of credit as an organization. Whatever they're doing, and however they're doing it -- sure appears to have worked just fine.
This is class at the highest levels.
But class doesn't guarantee winning either.
And the Spurs are in trouble.
It could probably fairly be said that most "experts", pundits, and even nitwit armchair hoops fans like yours truly didn't really think they'd get by the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. While the Spurs are their usual model of excellence, the Dubs appear to be operating at a still higher level.
It would have taken an extraordinary effort by the Spurs to win the Western Conference Finals against such a juggernaut.
Yet the Spurs came roaring out the gate in Game 1 -- @ Golden State -- and built a huge lead. It was just what they needed to perhaps get them "over the hump". Steal Game 1, and who knows? Could they do it again in Game 2, also in Oakland? The momentum would have shifted in a huge way in San Antonio's favor. With the next two games in the friendly confines of Alamoland, things would have been looking up indeed for Coach Pop and his crew.
Alas. A lightning bolt struck. Already minus the services of guard Tony Parker, all-everything Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury. On an innocent enough looking play, he jumped up, then came down, and his left ankle bent in a way ankles aren't supposed to.
At the time, well into the third quarter, the Spurs were enjoying almost a 30 point lead. That's a bunch.
Once Leonard went out, the Warriors flat-out took over. They blistered the Spurs the rest of the way and escaped with a two point win. Had Kawhi Leonard still been available to play, this likely wouldn't have happened. Steph Curry wouldn't run wild and score in bunches with Leonard guarding him.
OK, those things happen in sports. It's unfortunate, but sometimes that's just the way the proverbial cookie crumbles.
True, the series is young, and San Antonio shouldn't be counted out yet.
But they had a golden opportunity to seize control, and managed to blow a colossal lead to lose the opener. A very bad sign for the Spurs and their faithful.
The extent and severity of Leonard's injury is unknown, but even if he's capable of returning, chances are good he'll be playing at far less than 100%. Without him, the Spurs have NO shot.
Unless a key Golden State player or two goes down as well in the very near future. One never knows about such things. It could happen.
But as long as GS remains healthy, and given they now know they can storm back from a deficit against SA, this series might be short indeed.
I, for one, hope not. I'd love to see it go to a Game 7, with a fully healthy Kawhi Leonard giving Steph Curry all he can handle. How great of a game would THAT be to watch?
Yet as is, things ain't looking good for the Spurs.
Win or lose, they'll come out of this series with the class they've always shown. You won't see them trash-talking, sending childish "look at me" tweets, or hawking some lame product (while making fools of themselves) on TV commercials for a few bucks they don't need. That's for players that can't seem to get past the first round of the playoffs -- see a certain LA team.
So if for no other reason except class, here's hoping the Spurs can find a way to get right back in this thing. It sure isn't going to come from the groin kicker -- see a certain GS player.
The only thing more thunderous than his nether region boots is his big mouth which, to date, remains a paragon of ignorance.
This is not even low class.
It's ZERO class.
Maybe he should have spent more TIME in class while at school. They just might have taught him how to behave as a gentleman, rather than the on-court thug he's evidently become.
Just a thought.....