We'll remember them as one of the weaker championship teams in recent memory, a team that could be pushed around at times, a team whose quality players disappeared for entire games. They needed a miraculous effort from Big Shot Brob in Game 5 just to avoid an ignominious 3-4-5 sweep in Detroit. They couldn't close out the resilient Pistons in Game 6, which any of the better NBA champions in history would have done. Yet none of that stuff will matter 50 years from now. As Joe Theismann would say, championship teams win championships. The Spurs did just enough to win, and their superstar protected his house when it counted. Just like old times.
Lost in the shuffle were the defending champs, who defended their title with the requisite amount of honor and integrity. They carried championship belts like boxers, shouted "on and on and on" before games, always thrived with their backs to the wall. Some kept comparing them to the Patriots, and their impeccable record in must-win games and closeouts put them in the general ballpark. But the Pats won 34 of their last 38 games and haven't lost at home since December 2002. The Pistons never dominated over a prolonged stretch like that; if anything, they reminded me more of Winky Wright, the middleweight champ whose astonishing defensive skills suck the life out of his opponents. When you watch Winky, you find yourself thinking things like, "Will anyone ever land a punch on him?" And, "If everyone fought like this, boxing would go out of business in five years."
The Pistons were a little like that. And it nearly worked to the tune of back-to-back championships. At the same time, nobody was burning DVDs of last month's Wright-Trinidad fight and selling them like hotcakes on eBay. And nobody will be burning DVDs from the 2005 Finals, with the glorious exception of Game 5. Even though these were probably the two best teams in the NBA, the Spurs and Pistons couldn't quite bring the best out in one another over these last two weeks. To steal another boxing analogy, styles make fights. And these styles never quite meshed.
But Game 7 turned out about as well as we could have hoped. The atmosphere felt right, the right players stepped up at the right times, and you couldn't reasonably expect anything beyond that. For anyone lucky enough to be sitting in the building Thursday night, I bet you will remember that game forever. I know that's the case for my father and me. Last year, during the 20th anniversary of that Celtics-Lakers game, I couldn't resist asking Dad if he truly contemplated selling those Game 7 seats. He smiled and shook his head no.
"You can't put a price on a Game 7," he said simply.
And you can't.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.