CLEVELAND -- Tony Parker was wearing a semi-damp shirt -- not soaked, mind you, but merely moist -- as he held the Larry O'Brien trophy in one arm and the NBA Finals MVP trophy in the other. He was then told it was his turn to make the long trek to the interview room.
MVP Parker joins Spurs' elite
"You go first. I'll follow you," Finley said. "We've all been following you all season."
The Spurs locker room was indeed a happy place, but it wasn't anywhere near as smelly or wet of a place as the champions' locker room was a year ago when the Miami Heat finished off the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 and unleashed nearly 20 years of pent-up excitement in a raucous, crazy celebration the likes of which I've never seen before.
The scene Thursday night was so much more subdued, so much more refined -- a snapshot moment that illustrated how different it was to have a known, proven commodity, rather than a first-time titlist, emerge on top after the long NBA season.
Yes, I saw some beer bottles being shaken up and sprayed around the room (they had Bud Light, Corona and Labatt Blue) when I was one of the first reporters allowed inside the Spurs' locker room. And yes, that sweet but pungent scent of champagne (the brand was called Cristalino, which I suspect is not related to Cristal) was wafting through the air.
But any similarities to the celebration scene of a year ago ended right there.
Not once did I hear a single Spurs player emit even the slightest whoop. Not a single guy was jumping up and down.
A cellophane wrap covered the untouched postgame spread of turkey on sandwiches on wheat bread, a sight that struck Beno Udrih as so uncommonly weird that he called over to Brent Barry, who was filming the scene with a handheld video camera, and said "Bones, you need a sandwich?"
A larger piece of cellophane slipped off the television set it was covering, revealing a news station broadcasting a helicopter view of the scene outside the arena, the headline along the bottom of the screen reading "Championship Dream Ends."
Nearby, Matt Bonner took it all in as he munched on a green apple. On the other side of the wall, the Spurs coaching staff puffed on victory cigars. Fabricio Oberto stood in the center of the room and took questions from many of the same members of the Argentine media contingent who danced with him on the court in Athens three years ago following the Olympic gold-medal game.
"Some day you're going to own this league," Duncan told James, "but thanks for giving it to us this year."
The Cavs didn't actually give the title to the Spurs on Thursday night, San Antonio's 83-82 Game 4 victory, which completed a 4-0 sweep, was much more of a case of the champs' earning it. The finale was yet another game that -- as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich so succinctly put it two nights ago -- set offense-oriented NBA basketball back a decade, but it was compelling to watch down the stretch nonetheless, a game in which the Spurs withstood the Cavs' final flail at salvaging some lasting dignity to take into the summer with them.
After allowing Cleveland to open the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run that gave the Cavs a one-point lead, the Spurs summoned their greatest strength -- their ability to stay calm, execute and play with poise -- to respond with a 14-3 burst that put them back in control.
Ginobili was the catalyst down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 27 points in the final quarter, the last of which came on the second of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to give the Spurs a four-point lead that clinched it. Ginobili thrust both fists in the air after hitting the shot, and James was already congratulating Bruce Bowen with a handshake as Damon Jones was nailing a meaningless 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
An instant after that buzzer sounded, James made a beeline toward the exit tunnel leading back to the Cavs' locker room.
"I didn't want to turn around at all and look at it, but I've seen other teams win the title before, me watching on TV, so I knew what they were doing," James said. "But I didn't turn around and look at it. I didn't want to look at it."
He probably won't want to look at his stats from this series, either, because as good as a player as he is, James' numbers were not in the superstar stratosphere. Yes, he averaged 22.0 points, but he shot 36 percent from the field and just 20 percent on 3s, and his 27 assists were nearly matched by his 23 turnovers.
Now let's compare that to Parker, who garnered all but one of the 10 votes in balloting for the MVP award. Parker shot 57 percent for the series and averaged 24.5 points, dominating the point guard matchup to the extent that the first question Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry will be asking himself on Friday morning is how that spot can be shored up in the offseason so the Cavs can be best able to try and replicate this run a year from now.
After getting a huge embrace from fiancÚ Eva Longoria, who jumped at him and curled her arms and legs around him, Parker had a French flag wrapped around his waist like a beach towel as he stood at center court and received his MVP trophy from commissioner David Stern.
"Congratulations, and bon chance," said Stern, mixing in a little French with his English.
C'est magnifique would have been a fitting choice of words, too, on a night when Parker graduated to the level of sustained greatness previously reserved in San Antonio for icons Duncan, David Robinson and George Gervin.
Parker makes it four -- four championships, and four franchise heroes.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Finals MVP Tony Parker and Tim Duncan celebrated the clinching win in refined style.
CLEVELAND -- All throughout the Finals, a lot of folks have been asking me where I rank each of these teams in the list of the top 60 post-merger finalists that I created prior to this series. Now that all the results are in the books, I can give you an answer.
The Spurs just edge out the '99 edition as the best of the four San Antonio champions, ranking ninth among the (now) 62 teams. Every team ahead of them won at least 61 games while they only won 58, but that mirrors what I've been saying about the Spurs all year -- their victory margin was that of a vastly superior team, and that's what we should have been paying attention to all along. San Antonio could have ranked higher if it had maintained such a strong margin in the playoffs, but it didn't.
Still, with 275.3 points, the Spurs are just a hair behind the eighth-ranked 1992 Chicago Bulls -- that's some pretty lofty company. And consider this: The Spurs now own the two highest-rated post-merger teams that didn't feature Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, and two of the five best that didn't have Jordan. There's some more fuel for Tim Duncan's all-time great resume.
As for the Cavs, it may surprise some to learn that they're not the worst finalist ever, as some have claimed. In fact, they're not terribly close. Cleveland's 146.3 points would rate them 56th, or seventh from the bottom, but nowhere near the 100.1 put up by the 1982 Rockets.
But some other recent Eastern Conference champions have been worse --including the 2001 76ers, the 2002 Nets and the 1999 Knicks. Cleveland wasn't a good team for a finalist, mind you, but the Finals have seen worse. This blowout was as much a result of their unusually strong opponent as it was the Cavs' unusually weak conference-champion resume.
-- John Hollinger in Cleveland
• Cavs' 322 points in the series were the all-time post-shot clock low for a four-game NBA Finals.
• Spurs 67 assists were a low for a four-game NBA Finals.
• The Spurs are just the fourth franchise to win at least four titles. San Antonio joins the Celtics (16), Lakers (14) and Bulls (6).
• Robert Horry (7 titles) and John Salley are the only players in NBA history to win rings with three different teams. Horry won with the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs. Salley won with the Pistons, Bulls and Lakers.
• LeBron James completed his second postseason with a career playoff scoring average of 27.3 ppg. That's already fifth best, trailing only Michael Jordan (33.4), Allen Iverson (30), Jerry West (29.1) and Tracy McGrady (28.8). (Minimum 25 games, 625 total points)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Tony Parker has the NBA Finals MVP award, and the adoration of Eva Longoria, whom you just may have seen at her fiancÚ's games.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
ESPN Radio sideline reporters Lisa Salters (Cavs) and Ric Bucher (Spurs) provided the best nuggets overheard during Thursday's Spurs-Cavs Game 4 of the NBA Finals:
Cavs: What I saw and heard on the Cavaliers' bench tonight may have been the most entertaining all series.
LeBron James was being treated for a court burn on his left knee -- the burn was about the size of a dime, the skin was gone, and it was bleeding.
Cavs trainer Max Benton was cleaning the wound while LeBron continued to watch the game. But when Benton put an iodine-like liquid on LeBron's knee, the King almost jumped out of his chair! He said, "Hey, man! What are you doing? You've got to tell me before you put that s--- on me! That hurts!"
Benton wanted to continue, but LeBron said, "No way, that's enough of that. Just put the bandage on and wrap it up, I'll be fine."
Spurs: After five unforced turnovers led to an 18-16 Cavs' lead at the end of the first quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ripped into his team in general and Manu Ginobili in particular: "We're throwing the ball all over the gym! Get your heads out of your asses! We're playing like s---!" Ginobili, who had two points, would finish with a game-high 27.
Four quick questions with Spurs owner Peter Holt, who has presided over all four of San Antonio's championships:
Q: As we ask every Spur, does it bother you that your team -- and Tim Duncan specifically -- hasn't generated the respect we've seen many other champions get?
A: We are respected. We are respected by the people we want to be respected by.
Q: So you can even ignore the "Spurs are boring" stuff?
A: As long as we keep winning, please, let us be boring.
Q: How much did all the talk about the Spurs being "dirty" in the Phoenix series spoil that series or anything that's happened since?
A: I guess it would have bothered me more if I hadn't been in this business for so long. It all calmed down in a couple days. That's not who we are. We are still who we are and who we've always been.
To Spurs forward Robert Horry, who collected his seventh NBA championship, there have only been two dynasties in league history: Bill Russell's Celtics, who won 11 titles in 13 years, and Michael Jordan's Bulls, who won 6 in 8 years (or really 6 in 6 because of MJ's first retirement).
"A dynasty is a team that's been dominant over a 10-year span,'' Horry said. "Anything else, is too short. The Shaq/Kobe Lakers who won three straight? That was too short.''
I like Horry's standards, but I'm a little more lenient. I think the Showtime Lakers of Magic and Kareem, who won five titles in nine years, were definitely a dynasty, and I'll even throw Bird's Celtics in the mix.
But Bird's Celtics only won three titles in his 13 seasons. We speak of them as a dynasty because they had so many all-time greats, but they certainly weren't as dominant as the Shaq/Kobe Lakers were for those three seasons.
Still, with perhaps the best frontline ever (Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish), those Celtics have to be considered dynastic.
Horry thinks these Spurs would have topped those great Lakers and Celtics teams of the '80s, but all that bling has blinded him.
I believe the Magic/Kareem Lakers were the best team of all time, even better than MJ's Bulls. They definitely had the best point guard of all time and arguably the best center. Those are the two main positions on the floor.
Although I don't put these Spurs on the same level as the Lakers and Celtics of the '80s or the Bulls of the '90s, I do consider them a dynasty.
Four titles in nine years is outstanding. I don't give much credence to the argument that they haven't won back-to-back championships. That doesn't diminish how great they've been over the past decade.
And let's not forget, with Duncan having two or three more years left at this high level and 25-year-old Tony Parker getting better each year, the Spurs should definitely win one more ring. Two's not out of the question.