It was a perfect, sunny summer day in San Antonio as the Spurs gathered at the home of Gregg Popovich (a.k.a. Pop) to greet their new teammates, LaMarcus Aldridge and David West.
Kids were splashing about in the pool; brisket was cooking in the smoker and meat was on the grill. The coolers were flush with ice-cold sodas and beer. Everyone was having a great time. It was splendid.
Tim Duncan and Aldridge strolled along, with Aldridge enjoying a huge brisket sandwich. As he took a bite, a large glob of barbecue sauce squirted out the back of the sandwich. Duncan, the consumate teammate, pointed to Aldridge’s chest, and helpfully offered, “You have something on your shirt.”
Aldridge looked down to find the offending spot, when suddenly, with no warning, Duncan flipped his finger up and tweaked Aldridge in the nose.
“Made you look!!!” he declared triumphantly.
And pandemonium broke loose all over the back yard.
The normally gruff Pop laughed so hard he melted into giggle-snorts, struggling to regain his composure. “I’ve got to do that on Craig!” he imagined loudly. His wife (“Mom” to the team) glared at him with the eyes that told him she was decidedly unpleased with his current behavior—that terrifying look no husband wants to be on the receiving end of.
Manu Ginobili excitedly walked about, explaining the punchline to everyone (who already got the joke). “Made you look!” he’d declare, and then smack his own prodigious beak. And then his mirth would reach a new hysterical height.
Tony Parker laughed in French.
Perhaps the most stunning reaction of all came from Kawhi Leonard, who found it so hilarious, he nearly nearly moved.
It was, by any man’s standard, an extremely successful prank. It was the sort the team has become famous for.
In fact, Spurs color commentator, Sean Elliott was quick to call it, “the single greatest prank in the history of mankind.” But Elliott was also concerned about how its success could have a negative impact on the team.
He asked Popovich about this as the party waned in late afternoon hours. Perhaps it was the lingering feeling of having a good time, but the Spurs head coach was considerably more engaging than normal.
“Look, this whole thing—the pool party, the brisket, all of it—was just a ruse. When we first started looking at Aldridge back when he was at Texas, it was our feeling that he was a tad gullible. And we’ve noticed that his entire career.
“Our analytics department has details that we really don’t want to disclose, but this is something we knew we’d need to work with. Look, we have film. Lots of it. We’re going to sit down with LaMarcus and walk him through these things. It’s nothing that can’t be learned.
This is the sort of issue that can be resolved with practice. When Kawhi was a rookie, he fell for ‘something on you shirt’ three times in the first five minutes. It was sad.
“But, as we worked on him, he became one of the best. Last summer, he didn’t even look when we told him there was a scorpion on his shirt. And there really was!!! Boy did he jump when it stung him. But that’s another story.
“Now he’s one of the best in the game. He’s a two-way shirter too. With those mitts of his, it’s just amazing how far away he can be and get a good nose flick in. And with that monotone facial expression of his, it’s impossible to tell when he’s joking.
“A few hundred practices, and we’ll have that worked out of him by September.”
The idea of LA with a shirt game in addition to the rest of his skills is utterly terrifying to the rest of the league. It’s almost unfair. But this is what the Spurs do. They’re the best organization in the league, top to bottom. Don’t be surprised to see Aldridge delivering a nose flick on Serge Ibaka in the season opener.
This article is a parody and not based on true events.