If you nodded your head saying money can't buy love, that wasn't what I meant ! After all this is a business blog and starry eyed affairs of the heart seldom feature here !!. Money can't even buy the thing money is supposed to be good at buying - a major sports championship.
The trigger for this post is the NBA finals that concluded yesterday. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to win the "World Championship" of basketball . For the sports purist, it was a wonderful result. The Spurs played sublime basketball. They came back after a heartbreaking loss last year to win it this time around. This is their fifth championship. But this post isn't about the sport - its about the money.
In sports, superstars make insane amounts of money as salaries. If ever there is a breed even more mercenary than bankers, it is sports stars. Salary levels are simply insane. Kobe Bryant the highest paid NBA star, earned a salary of $ 1 per second ! There are 31 m seconds in a year and that's what he earned - $ 31m in a year. Or if you prefer $ 85,000 every day. And he was injured for most of the season and hardly played - he made all that money sitting on his butt (Sriram please note !). At least Kobe Bryant is one of the world's top players. What about Amar'e Stoudamire making $ 22m. He can't even make it into his own team.
NBA salaries are guaranteed by contract - it doesn't matter if the player plays well or awfully. It doesn't even matter if he is dropped. He just banks the money. The most outrageous case happened five seasons ago and I blogged about it here. In every other field of human endeavour, pay has some link to performance. Not in most sports and certainly not in the NBA. Player salaries inflate to obscene levels and for the contract duration it absolutely does not matter what the player does.
In this mad world of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs stand out. Their top players take pay cuts so that the team can afford to hire good players. Their top players - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, have stayed together in the same team from the beginning. They could have doubled their salaries going elsewhere. They didn't and instead took pay cuts. Their coach Greg Popovich has been coaching them for 17 years. They play together as a team. They are unselfish - there are no giant sized egos. Their young rising star, Kawhi Leonard, won the Most Valuable Player award of the Finals. His salary ? $ 1.9 m.
Now you can understand, why I am incredibly happy that the Spurs won. This is sports at its best. In a world of giant sized egos, obscene salaries, switching teams at the drop of a hat, the San Antonio Spurs represent modesty, team work and the spirit of sport. There is simply no other major team in any sport, even remotely like them. Think of Tim Duncan. One of the greatest players the game has ever seen. He's into his 17th year - his contemporaries have long retired. He is still a great player. He takes pay cuts year after year to help the team . He is self effacing to a fault. And he just wins. He played brilliantly in the Finals. It is his fifth NBA championship. This is what sports, and a sportsman, ought to be like.
And here's another reason to love them . In the backwaters of Texas, where you would least expect it, is the most international of NBA teams. Their team consists of two Frenchmen, one Brazilian, one Argentinian, one Italian, one Australian and one Virgin Islander. Of the players who took the court in the last game only 3 were American.
All hail the San Antonio Spurs.
PS. One more reason to adore Tim Duncan. He doesn't tweet. Oh Lord; what a blessed relief :)