Monday, June 24, 2013

The Longest Day - the Longest Run

June 20 was Game 7 of a historic 2013 NBA Finals, which ended at the dawn of the longest day in the Northern hemisphere.  This year’s NBA Finals was historic for a number of reasons:

·    The winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 tie did not go on to win the series.

·    In a victorious Game 5, Danny Green who made his first Finals appearance broke Ray Allen’s record of most 3-pointers in a Finals series. (Green made 26 through Game 6 – Allen’s record was 22.)

·     The San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan came in as being the only player in NBA history to be in the finals in three decades.  A notable run!

If you were a casual basketball watcher and not into the stats, you would not know a lot about the Spurs star players because Coach Popovich doesn’t build superstars – he builds teams … quiet, unassuming teams who play not for individual glory but for team success. None of the Spurs roar on the floor, or draw attention through their bodies and hair or make histrionic moves that make them Hollywood worthy.  Somehow, I don’t see a multi-color tattooed Birdman Anderson or a long-bearded James Harden or other controversial player fitting into the comparatively conservative Spurs.

San Antonio is a small market – unlike Los Angeles (home of the Lakers and Clippers); New York (home of the Knicks and Nets) and Miami (home of the Heat), Chicago (home of the Bulls), Boston (home of the Celtics). If you haven’t seen Duncan, Ginobili, Parker or anyone else on the Spurs roster on Wheaties boxes or on national advertisements, it is by design. Greg Popovich prefers that his players focus on the game and not just fame or in some instances notoriety. Perhaps, there may have been some discomfort in Spurs camps when Tony Parker gained national media attention during his relationship with and eventual marriage to actress Eva Langoria and their divorce. 

If you were to pay attention to team chemistry, you will not find a tighter knit group than the Spurs. You will notice the quiet respect that Tim Duncan commands as the leader and the acceptance of each team player of their role. The quiet team spirit and their low key personalities on and off the court can be called their biggest strengths. Unfortunately, on a national level, these strengths have become their weakness. Except for die-hard basketball fans outside of San Antonio, few casual fans tune in to watch the Spurs – unless they are playing a nationally recognized team or an up and coming team like the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

According to the statistics, it is inevitable that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame after they retire, just like George "The Iceman" Gervin, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, David Robinson. Their induction may probably be done sans the fanfare and media circuit interviews in the manner to which they are accustomed. 

If you watched the series, and saw Tim Duncan playing with the same strength and flexibility of the much younger Heat players, you may have not realized that Duncan was 37! The minutes Tony Parker was active on the floor may have made you forget that he had a hamstring injury. And for certain times during some of the games, vintage Ginobili transported us back 6 years ago when they won their last title.

As this team recovers from their heartbreaking loss, let us not forget the superstars on the Spurs team who deserve all the accolades for making this series a long run and who had to live the longest day knowing that victory was so within their reach.

Unlike most teams, the Spurs have remained competitive and relevant throughout Greg Popovich’s coaching history with them. Yet, for all their prowess in many aspects of the game, doesn’t it make you wonder whether being team players has sacrificed the Spurs’ ability to shine as individual super stars?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

6 Degrees of Connection 6 N, 79 E

I love this variant on a John Muir quote, "Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe." It became all the more relevant on a recent visit to Melbourne, Australia after almost 29 years, when I last visited my brother Anton soon after he migrated there in 1984. I moved to the US shortly thereafter. Before all that, Australia used to be one of my favorite destinations when I worked for Singapore Airlines in the late seventies and early eighties. 

My brother Anton had always maintained that I had an open invitation to visit him anytime, and to keep our close relationship more real, he made the long trip many times to visit me in the US. Finally, I put aside my dread of the long flights when he became a grandfather for the first time in March 2013. After all, I had to pass on stories of our childhood to the new generation and I could also meet my oldest nephew and his family who had since migrated to Australia as well. And, shortly before I left New York, I sent a private Facebook message to some of my old friends and arranged to meet them.

As I drove around in Melbourne with my brother and my friends, I noticed that everyone relied on their GPS systems in their vehicles and their mobile phones. Things had definitely changed in the 29 years since I was last in Australia. To put things in perspective, I was born and raised before the technology boom, at 79 Mayfield Road in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Now that most things involve GPS coordinates, I looked up my old home and was amazed to find that its GPS coordinates are 6°N 79°E. So, it should not be a surprise that during my visit to Australia and my stopover in Dubai, I discovered the 6 degrees of connection to my old home at 79 Mayfield Road.

When I spent the day with Joan, my former colleague from Singapore Airlines, we got chatting about the decades since we last met. She mentioned that her brother, whom I also knew, lived close by and that he and his wife Barathi wanted to meet me. A couple of weeks prior to my trip, I had learned that Barathi was related to my cousin's husband, so I was keen on meeting her. I had no idea that Barathi would connect me up with so many people I had been trying for years to reconnect with, but had not been able to. For starters, I learned that Barathi's mother's sister had lived up the street from my former home in Colombo.

As Barathi's mother and I chatted further, I found out that she was related to Rammy & Joyce whom I had known a long time ago and had stayed with on my very first trip to Australia. Then, I discovered that Pam, my friend and former colleague from the Tourism Promotion Board in Colombo was another of Barathi's mom's cousins. But, the most interesting coincidence of all was that Barathi and her husband lived next door to my very dear friend for many years, Chris--whom I had lost contact with and had tried several times to find.
Another night, when I connected up with my former classmates, my host Cheryl informed me that our former classmate Marina, who had the distinction of being the first in our class to get married was her neighbor! I had lost touch with Marina because she had moved to Australia right after the wedding. As I recapped my wonderful reunion with my classmates to my sister-in-law and the fact that I was also going to get in touch with another lost classmate, she told me that she had known Marina and her in-laws and would be delighted to meet her again. Talk about 6 degrees that make a difference even in different hemispheres!

Suffice it to say that I was able to meet with most of the people I reconnected with and at least talk to those whom time did not permit me to meet. Some people believe in the 6 degrees of separation. I have become a firm believer in the 6 degrees of connection.

Contemporary author, Chelsea Shakespeare sums up the idea of connections in the quote, “Everything is connected, like a delicate web ... New silvery strands come together every day, and once the strand is formed, no matter what superficial circumstances may sometimes keep you apart, it is never broken."

Have you had those moments when you tugged at one strand and it unraveled beautiful strands of connections?