As a lifelong fan of the San Antonio Spurs, it was pretty remarkable last week for me.
Last Sunday, I saw the Spurs end what might have been the most amazing season in the history of their franchise. No megastars, no drama, just unselfishness and a complete team effort in the destruction of the Miami Heat in five games for the NBA Title.
A year ago, the Spurs walked away after blowing a 5-point lead with under 30-seconds left to play in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Miami, who eventually won the title in Game 7.
I thought about the 49ers and how last year’s loss to Seattle in the NFC Championship game reminded me of the Spurs loss to Miami in Game 6.
So close, yet so far. So painful, and yet somehow, so reassuring; one free throw, one rebound, six inches deeper into the end zone, and the 49ers like the Spurs, are champions of their sport in 2013.
The Spurs took Game 6, and moved forward the next season, on a mission to take what they felt was theirs. No excuses, no pity or remorse, just a game plan beautifully executed along with heart and desire, and almost a year later, the memories of Game 6 were gone as the Spurs celebrated their 5th NBA Title.
The 49ers can be this year’s San Antonio Spurs. No excuses for last year’s failure in the conference title game. No pity or remorse, just execution, heart, desire, and determination to claim what they believe should have been theirs, the Lombardi Trophy.
I believe the 49ers could take what the Spurs did, and learn from them in three ways.
1. Stay Hungry
After the heartbreak of the NBA FInals, the Spurs entered the following season by watching Game 6 in it’s entirety. They relived it in all it’s glory and horror. The 15-point lead that evaporated, and the gut wrenching final 30-seconds. At the end, the Spurs moved on, hungrier than the rest of the league and knowing their championship window might not be open much longer.
The 49ers have to stay hungry like the Spurs and must know, their window to win a title is rapidly closing. Expiring contracts are coming up and players are getting older for a team that has appeared in three straight NFC Title Games.
2. Stay Humble
The Spurs were never a “Me” team, they were an “us” team. Tim Duncan didn’t make a game winning shot, it was a great pass and a great screen that set up the game winner.
The 49ers must stay humble during the season. No big fancy celebrations after a tackle, touchdown, or sack are needed. No self adoration, just complete humbleness can go a long way and takes away from distractions, which can end title runs for teams. Everybody remembers the 85′ Chicago Bears and their “Super Bowl Shuffle”, yet how many more titles did that team end up winning? That’s right, zero.
3. Play unselfish
During the regular season, not one San Antonio Spurs player averaged over 30-minutes a game, something that had never been done since the NBA merger. As a result, the Spurs were fresh and ready to rock-n-roll come playoff time. While other teams were running their superstars 40+ minutes a night over the course of 82 regular season games on top of the playoffs, the Spurs ran with fresh legs.
The 49ers must play unselfish if they wish to win a Super Bowl in 2014.
For one, contract disputes don’t help. They can create division on a team and even worse, animosity between players.
Frank Gore also doesn’t need another year of 275+ carries. Last season, Gore had seven games of 20+ carries and only twice did he break the century mark. With Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde ready to carry the ball in 2014, it would be wise to save Frank’s carries for the playoffs.
Navorro Bowman doesn’t need to be rushed back from injury, and no player should have to play to meet their “contract incentives”.
The 49ers can win a Super Bowl in 2014, they’ve got the team and the players to do it, and they’ve also got a good mentor to look up to in the San Antonio Spurs.