What Hollywood Can Learn From the San Antonio Spurs

What Hollywood Can Learn From the
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The NBA Playoffs mean Hollywood types who once dutifully supported the now-hapless Los Angeles Lakers have shifted their focus to the hometown Clippers. Yet if they want a true lesson in Showbiz 101, those same agents, executives and stars crowding into Staples Center should really pay attention to the home team’s first-round opponent, the San Antonio Spurs.

Analogies between running a major sports franchise and a network or studio aren’t perfect. But to the extent the two overlap, it’s hard to think of an operation that better manages the mix of talent, super-sized ego and personalities than the Spurs, despite hailing from one of the smallest media markets in the top-heavy league.

Why have the Spurs so excelled, winning five championships, including four in the last 13 years behind the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker? For the purposes of showbiz, the five-point formula breaks down as follows:

The stars. Unlike a lot of stars – who tend to hang on well past their prime – the Spurs’ standouts have been noteworthy for their willingness to pass the baton to younger players as they become ready. That began, actually, with David Robinson deferring to Duncan, but has been passed down with regularity since, including the shift this year to 23-year-old Kawhi Leonard. “It’s going to be Kawhi’s team,” Parker told the New York Times. “Timmy transitioned to Manu, Manu transitioned to me, and now it’s going to be transitioned to Kawhi.” And how many stars are willing to so gracefully recognize they’re no longer top dog without kicking up a fuss?

The coach. Gregg Popovich has been the Spurs’ coach for 19 seasons, longer than any other franchise in professional sports. Moreover, he’s held in such high esteem that he can generally treat the press like they all just crawled out of the prehistoric sludge, and they still fawn all over him.

For a TV counterpart, one need only look at CBS, where CEO Leslie Moonves took over the year before Popovich did and has kept the same core team largely in place since his tenure began. The results have been similar, except Moonves is usually less belligerent during halftime interviews.

The up-and-comers. As noted, the rising stars on the Spurs wait their turn, and exhibit respect for the leaders. If there is any chafing for a promotion, there’s little evidence of champing at the bit for it, perhaps because the hierarchy has been so well established: Do your part, play your designated role, and the rewards will flow to everyone.

The global strategy. The Spurs have maintained their success in part by finding talent from all over the world, boasting the most international roster in the NBA, with nine players who were born outside the U.S., including Europe, South America, Australia and Canada. As Hollywood has discovered, while the movies (and basketball) were birthed in the U.S., the market is now global, and it’s wise to develop talent from wherever one can find it.

Stability. While other teams (and studios) are seemingly in a constant state of flux, Spurs management has been defined by its steadiness and longevity – making changes, yes, but keeping the core of Popovich and the three main stars together and building around that foundation. That stability is both a part of the Spurs’ winning ways and a reason, frankly, why the team is often considered boring in media circles, inasmuch as they don’t produce the kind of drama that tends to follow, say, superstar LeBron James around in his travels from Cleveland to Miami and back again.

As this is written, the Spurs’ playoff fate is still uncertain, but how well they defend their title is hardly the sole litmus test for judging their enviable consistency over the years. So while the moguls who once ate up the NBA’s L.A.-based version of “Showtime” are focusing on San Antonio versus the Clippers, when it comes to handling high-paid talent, they should forget the Alamo and remember the Spurs.

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  1. Marcus says:

    This is a great breakdown as the traits of a successful entertainment businesses (in this case, live entertainment) tend to have such characteristics. The thing that most don’t know is that in the San Antonio area that many of the Spurs players and the front office members have a charitable nature in one form or fashion. They tend to help out others in the community a bit more frequently than other San Antonio sports franchise personnel in previous years. Their charitable natures tend to complement the intensity needed to perform on the court (field) and endure injury, travel and other challenges that most people don’t face in their day-to-day jobs.

  2. A. Hernandez says:

    Lets start with population base, San Antonio/New Braunfels is a metro of nearly 2.5 million people, and one of the fastest growing, larger than many cities that have NFL, MLB, & NBA teams. The reason San Antonio’s TV market isn’t ranked as a top market is because it is adjacent and just minutes away from metro Austin/San Marcos, a combined population of nearly 4.5 million people in a land area about the size that Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach cover and having a comparable population. The two metros are merging together and could one day be one media market ranking with the top heavy markets.

    TV Media market size isn’t a fair measurement anyway and doesn’t really measure a city’s true size, for example Indianapolis’ TV market is larger than San Diego ‘ s despite San Diego having more than 1 million more people. Raleigh-Durham, Nashville are ranked about the same size as San Diego, cities that are considerably smaller than both San Diego and San Antonio. You never here anything about San Diego being a small TV market, granted it doesn’t have NBA, but still an NFL city. Some in the media love to point out that San Antonio’s TV market isn’t one of the bigger ones, clearly not a good measurement of the size and strength of a city.

    The bottom line is that San Antonio is a popular destination, in fact one of the most visited U.S. destinations by both domestic and international visitors, 10th most visited U.S city, nearly 30 million annual visitors. The city might not be abuzz or in the limelight as much as L.A. and Hollywood but it gets its share of national attention.

    Nonetheless great article about Spurs, this will be a great playoff match up.

  3. Great article! LOVE my Spurs for all that was said and more. Living here in San Antonio, you actually can see the true reach of their greatness and humility with the fans and the community in all that they do – it’s awesome. And the way they play the game is to be admired, for sure. While watching the Rockets/Mavs game last night, all I could think of was how polar opposite the Spurs players are in comparison to the Rockets, all fist-pumping, chest-banging show-boating clowns, while (as stated by Audrey in comments) that particular team has yet to win a title. The Spurs are well-deserving of all the respect. GO SPURS GO!!

  4. MalsDoxy says:

    great piece but you could’ve mentioned that when they win a championship, San Antonio doesn’t do the looting/burning cars/ violence thing so MANY other cities do…police say arrests actually go DOWN when they win a championship

  5. Wayne says:

    Simply the best at everything they do.it is an excellent article but one thing was left out and that is the growth of a new breed of coaches in the NBA that are descendants of Pop, just look at the new coach of the year and some of the other winning coaches around the league and you can see where that all came from… Hollywood could get a major clue from that alone…

  6. This is a excellent article!

  7. Gawd, thank you, thank you, thank you for this lovely and truth filled article on the San Antonio Spurs. I love this team. Class all the way, an organization with sheer integrity and love from their fans! No show-boating, no gloating, no hot-air. it’s just Team Basketball and love for the fans! #GOSPURSGO

  8. And none of those of annoying posturing and chest thumping we see from the likes of Nick Young, Kobe, Westbrook, Hardin… before you even get a championship throphy.

  9. Libby J says:

    The Spurs deserve respect, they have earned it! They are the defending champions.

  10. muluse says:

    Very well said and written, great article! As a Spurs fan, it matters not if they win or lose for they are loved by their fans; we stand behind them during their ups and downs.

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