Athletic competition has become almost devoid of true patience. Basketball, in particular is generally a rampage of emotion and speed that can be quite overwhelming. Patience has become a lost art in the world of sports.
It is the most important of the seven heavenly virtues. Patience is said to specifically oppose the vice of wrath. However, this is not something that is an exact science. There are many ways in which wrath can manifest itself through patience, but you didn't come here for a Middle Ages Psychomachia lesson; how does this relate to sports?
Well, in an era and a sport where patience is so scarce, it has actually been the Boston Celtics' most valuable weapon in the Eastern Conference Finals and throughout these playoffs. What we commonly think of as toughness, "grit-and-balls" or the ability to withstand punches and runs is none other than that heavenly virtue of patience.
Think about the Miami Heat and their superstars, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Are they patient basketball players? They do not wait for holes to open up or take advantage of what the defense is giving them. They are freight trains of immense power and emotion. Their fast-breaks are both things of beauty and at the same time downright terrifying to watch.
Now, patience is something that comes with experience. It escapes me which talking head made this analogy, but it reigns true. The experience of staring down the barrel of a loaded gun and remaining calm is exactly what Paul Pierce did on that three-pointer in the fourth quarter. The loaded gun was the league's most dangerous on-ball defender, James. It was Pierce's perfect 500 Fights Moment, it was pure patience.
You could see it in his body movement on that possession. In a game in which he was shooting as poorly as he ever had - 5-of-18 before the shot - Pierce didn't try to truck into the lane and draw a foul, nor did he didn't frantically pass the ball off to a covered teammate. You cannot do those things when staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, any move out of the ordinary could mean your demise. An offensive charge, an errant pass or a blocked shot would all have been the death of this season.
The Captain is just one player on this team that showcases such sublime patience in his game.
Ray Allen had a similarly poor shooting night, however was there any doubt when he went to the line to shoot those crunch-time free throws? His patience came through in his lack of emotion. Allen looked like a man doing laundry at the line, he treated those foul shots like a pair of neatly pressed pants.
Patience flows through Allen's game, whether he is draining those FTs or waiting till the absolute apex of his jump before releasing the smoothest stroke we have ever seen. When everything about a Ray Allen desperation heave looks hectic in real time, his face never changes, his hand positioning on the ball never changes. Falling out of bounds with hands in his face and a tick left on the clock, Ray Allen is patient in his release.
The patience of Rajon Rondo is something from another world. The communication between he and Kevin Garnett in game five was on point all night. The patience displayed by Rondo waiting to launch alley-oop after alley-oop is something that the Heat defense has still yet to figure out.
Take a look at the play in the video above in which Miami fails to pick up their men in transition and Rondo waits off to the right for Garnett to make his way up the court and into the paint. He waits until the precise moment to hit Garnett for a momentum shaking dunk and three-point-play. The majority of Rondo's assists come by virtue of his amazing patience and awareness. He can wait and wait and wait until a teammate works through a rotation or around a pick and will get them the ball only when they are ready.
Even on the loose ball play following Wade's block of Brandon Bass, Rondo rose above a cloud of hectic and disorganized bodies to patiently tap the ball out to a waiting Mickael Pietrus for a three.
The Miami Heat will get a lot of criticism for not going out and taking hold of this series in game five at home. They will be accused of not putting forth the effort of their opposition and playing with little of the "grit-and-balls" toughness. It will not be their demise in the end though, it will be something different.
As it reads in Proverbs 16:32 of the real King James Bible: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
A speeding freight train can veer off the tracks to crash and burn, but a patient man never accepts that it is the end. When you are patient, you survive.
You can follow Mike Walsh on Twitter @3rdStringWalsh. Walsh 6/06/2012 04:30:00 PM Tweet