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James said San Antonio epitomized five working as one. “That’s how team basketball should be played,” he said. “You know, it’s selfless. Guys move, cut, pass. You’ve got a shot, you take it, but it’s all for the team and it’s never about the individual.”

Prior to Game 5, Buford shot down notions that the Spurs‘ brand of ball should be the model.

“I don’t know that anybody has the right to determine how the game is supposed to be played,” he told a group of reporters. “You try to play to the strengths of your team and put your players in position to be successful.

“… Everybody has that goal, and their team fits differently. To say, there’s a way that looks beautiful, I don’t know how you even can judge that.”

If he needs clear-cut examples of ugly basketball, he should look at film of Riley’s Knicks.

The Spurs are aesthetically pleasing because Buford’s roster gives Pop options. They attack the rim, launch 3-pointers and play in the post, seemingly taking whatever they want instead of what the defense allows. It’s a breath of fresh air in a league where 1-on-1 isolation plays are the standard, where often neither the ball nor other players move very much.

San Antonio’s Big Three has been the constant in four of the Spurs‘ five NBA titles. Everythying else can be contributed to Buford’s machinations,

“The Spurs continue to get better,” James said after Game 5. ” Obviously, they kept those three guys intact, but they continue to put guys around them — high basketball‑IQ guys around them, high‑energy guys around them — that fit into the system of what Pop wanted to do.”

Riley put together James, Wade and Bosh — no small feat.

But he didn’t do nearly as good a job as Buford in building a supporting cast.