Spirit of the Southwest: The San Antonio Spurs and the Immigrant Future of America


Ask anybody outside of Texas to name a Texas city and they'll almost instantly say, "Dallas." Ask them to name more than one city and they'll say, "Dallas, Austin, Houston." And then there will be a long pause before they inevitably come up with San Antonio. "Oh yeah, San Antonio."

Nevermind that San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the United States (just a squeak behind Philly and Phoenix) and the second largest in Texas (after Houston). Yet the city of San Antonio and its residents are still an afterthought in the American psyche.

As I've written before, the city and it's team are a simulacrum of each other, the Spurs an extended metaphor of San Antonio itself: resilient, hard-working, humble, international, and mostly forgettable. But why?

It's a phenomenon, which nobody can seem to explain. As far as the Spurs have been scrutinized, the platitudes have all been tried: They're boring, they're small market, etc. But show me your idea of boring basketball and I'll show you the most inventive and resourceful bench in NBA history. Show me a small market team and I'll show you the second largest state in the Union.

What's interesting with these NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs this year isn't so much the rematch of last year or the fact that this could very well be the last time we see some of these superstars ever play the game. It's the collision of two basketball ideologies and, by extension, two American schematics that birthed those ideologies: Flash versus Fundamentals, The Team versus the Individual, Selfishness versus Selflessness, American Exceptionalism versus the fact that Manu Ginobili's Eurostep carved up about every team in the Western Conference this year.

While the Spurs might be older, it's becoming more obvious by the year that their system is the future of the NBA. It's undeniable that the Spurs have built something lasting by looking outward rather than looking in. They've been called the model franchise. Other teams, inside and outside the NBA, have no shame in saying they want their franchises to be modeled after General Manager R.C. Buford's machine -- clean, efficient, drama-free.

The Spurs are boring because they're steady, they rarely slip in their personal or professional lives -- and when they do they never fall the way we, American viewers, crave our heroes/sweethearts/legends to fall. Think of Magic, think of Michael, think of Kobe, think of every American icon known to man.

But like the city of San Antonio itself, the Spurs were built by immigrants one brick at a time, steady and slow and meant to last. And as American demographics change, as America itself changes, I can't help but wonder if, in these Finals, we're getting a juxtaposition of the old America with the new: what was American flash and what is the future of San Antonio and, by extension, this country at large:

The ethos of the immigrant, the ethos of the immigrant team. San Antonio and the Southwest.

The future.