Lieberman: Team-oriented attitude reinforced in this year’s NBA Playoffs

(Courtesy of @Celtics)

When it comes to mainstream professional sports in North America, we all know what sells.

Youth. Flare. Athleticism. Attitude.

It’s completely logical. Those are some of the key attributes of competition getting hearts racing and butts out of seats.

Think of a Tiger Woods fist pump at Augusta National or Rafael Nadal flexing one massive bicep at Centre Court in Roland Garros.@@[email protected]@ In my mind, there’s nothing quite as rousing, or strangely satisfying, as seeing a prodigious talent ferociously claw their way to the top. There’s an intoxicating element to the narrative of an up-and-coming master who we can all connect with, either vicariously or as a spectator.

The marketability of young, charismatic superstars has made them some of the most valuable properties in sports.@@okay, what is the point of this [email protected]@ Think of Derrick Rose,@@[email protected]@ Sidney Crosby@@ and Stephen Strasburg.@@[email protected]@ These guys are clearly in a league of their own. But when you look beyond their playing deals — to endorsements, TV contracts and revenue from licensed products and ticket sales — you begin to understand what these guys really are: THE franchise.

I know the phrase “franchise player” has been thrown around for a while. But today, the moniker rings true more than ever. When a guy like Tom Brady@@[email protected]@ or Rose@@we talking pete, [email protected]@ goes down with an injury, the hopes of an entire city — and the economic viability of massive empires — become significantly reduced.

As an NBA diehard, I’m guiltier of falling in love with the singular savior than most sports fans. Due to its 12-man roster, the NBA is a league built on the backs of flashy superstars.@@not [email protected]@ From Ricky Rubio to John Wall to Blake Griffin to Kyrie Irving,@@all [email protected]@ I’m always on top of the next breakthrough. Not only do these guys keep their teams competitive single-handedly — they do it in on center stage in an entertaining fashion, often with the game on the line.

I’m enamored with behind-the-back passes and rim-rattling dunks, but there’s something I have to admit: It starts to get old. Especially when your team isn’t doing so well in the win-loss column.@@[email protected]@ You can rip on teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers for being boring; it’s within your rights as a fan. What you can’t do is deny that a team-based, superstar-free model can reap serious rewards.@@this is where the column [email protected]@

To understand the benefits, all you have to do is take a look at where most of the NBA’s big names are right now. Dwight Howard? Gone fishin’. Carmelo Anthony? Carousing trendy New York nightclubs as we speak. The only thing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are lobbing is the TV remote across the room.@@and what of the other seasons when this is the [email protected]@

Meanwhile, the Pacers and 76ers are still fighting for their playoff lives. Additionally, the Western Conference Finals have turned into a clash between two of the more well-rounded squads this season: the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Undoubtedly, Kevin Durant is one of the league’s biggest superstars, and Tony Parker is a perennial All-Star.@@both [email protected]@ But when you look at these teams, you see much more than a lone star surrounded by questionable role players.

Instead, there’s top-notch talent (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Manu Ginobili)@@[email protected]@ taking a backseat and swallowing their ego@@i wouldnt say ginobili is swallowing his ego. he just understands how it [email protected]@ for the greater benefit. Additionally, these teams feature players with marginal talent but undeniable value (Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Thabo Sefolosha).@@what? dude…you don’t [email protected]@

Overall, you see synergy and true joy on the faces of benchwarmers. These guys aren’t good teammates in a big-brother, douchebag kind of way (Sorry, Kobe). They’re a band of brothers truly invested in the success of each other in a manner going beyond this game or this series … or this season.@@thank the coach for [email protected]@

If this observation sounds too Kumbaya@@[email protected]@ for you, just know that this is coming from a league housing some of the biggest egos in professional sports. I know soccer, football and baseball have their fair share of big heads and narcissists. But the NBA is the rare league where,@@really, [email protected]@ more often that not, the egomaniac is roughly accurate in claiming they’re the center of the universe. It’s that truth that has allowed Howard and Anthony to remain straight-faced while individually torturing their fan bases with fleeting allegiances and immature behavior.

When Oklahoma City and San Antonio tip off Sunday afternoon, don’t give a shrug or roll your eyes at two relatively small markets. Instead, tune in and feast your eyes on some of the most fundamentally sound basketball we’ve seen at this level in years.@@you havent been watching the spurs much, have you? they’ve been like this for [email protected]@ Tim Duncan, arguably the best power forward of all time, @@desperately? i don’t think so, [email protected]@reaching for his last crown. On the other side, possibly the best scorer of his generation — Kevin Durant — grinding to get his first.

The best part about the matchup: Nobody jumping on the scorer’s table or grabbing their balls after every shot. No mean mugging or faux-thug gestures. Instead of posturing, posterizations.

Whether youth or experience prevails, the bottom line remains: Sharing the ball (and the spotlight) pays off. While many more talented teams have already bit the dust, these two Western powers will continue to kick up a storm. In this series, there’s no Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin@@[email protected]@ — just two outstanding casts ready to take the stage for an all-time performance. Grab a seat and prepare to enjoy a different kind of drama.

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