Bring it in, men.
Tonight, you have an opportunity that not many people get. A chance to close out a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were many folks' pick to make the NBA Finals out of the West. A team with a scorer the caliber of Kevin Durant, an offensive weapon the Association hasn't seen since Michael Jordan. A squad with Russell Westbrook, whose impact on a game can be felt in so many explosive ways. These are two generational talents, and you've got them on the ropes.
If you read the Twittersphere or watched the national media outlets yesterday, you never would've known it was because of anything you guys did though. "Who is to blame if the Thunder lose", how can this be, what is OKC doing wrong? Quote after quote of speculation and analysis involving poor scheme and that damn Joey Crawford.
That is to say, not much complimenting you all.
That's OK though. It's hard to compliment a team like us. It's like Zach says, "We in the Mud." Have you ever said "hell of a job, man, being covered in wet dirt!" Our style does not lend itself to being praised by the outside world. Memphis gets us, because we are Memphis, but outside the city? We're the outcasts, the different ones, the folks who buck the trend of flash and superstar status. We are a true team; that isn't as sexy as explosive individualism.
Make no mistake men, you are not as gifted physically as Oklahoma City. That's OK; the most talented team doesn't always win. A coach of mine once said, and it rings true to this day, "Talent might be more glamorous, but toughness always wins." If you are talented and tough, you will be hard to beat. That's us, fellas, that's us. OKC, they're supremely talented. Their toughness, however, is questionable. Body language, coaching decisions, comments in interviews, we are in their heads!
Toughness is hard to quantify. There is no advanced stat, no metric, no "machine" that can equate the impact of mental toughness. My eyes can measure it though men, and they're shook. They're questioning their coach, their scheme and most importantly themselves. Durant and Westbrook, while immensely talented, don't trust their teammates. The in cohesion is palpable, and it exists because of you.
Now, Game 6. At home. Do not let this opportunity slip away. Do what we do; attack the rim, play aggressive suffocating defense and get them to make mistakes. Jump out early and often, feed off the crowd and let that doubt seep in more and more until eventually they fade. Hope and belief is a powerful thing, as we well know. Don't let it be a tool for them to get back in to this series. Finish it.
The great football coach Bill Walsh famously titled his book "The Scoreboard Will Take Care of Itself." I am a big believer in this philosophy, men. We cannot worry about the high and lows, the runs of the game. There will be successes and failures tonight, times of triumph and times of adversity. There will be bad calls by officials and frustration. Control what you can control, men. Continue to grind, continue to show grit and heart and give everything that you have as you have all series. Play together and for each other, and the scoreboard will take care of itself.
The perceptions of the outside world? They do not matter. All that matters is what is in this room right now, and what will be in that building tonight. The city of Memphis has always taken pride in being unique, in getting things done their own way. If we truly personify this city, why are we any different? The opinions of national media are irrelevant, this city and this team is what it is all about. We are all we've got, and we are all we need.
Tonight, a team and a city have a tremendous challenge and opportunity in front of them, at a moment that will be remembered forever. The Thunder are more talented and glamorous in the eyes of those outside Memphis, but who gives a damn?
It is toughness that always wins. Now take what's yours.