When I joined Pounding The Rock, I pitched a project that would cover every player who ever wore a Spurs jersey. Not equally, by any means, but each jersey would be identified numerically by the players who wore it.
There is a significance to the numbers of jerseys as it pertains to the five NBA Championships that have been won by the San Antonio Spurs.
There is only one jersey number associated with all five San Antonio Spurs NBA Championships- #21. Tim Duncan. He is coincidentally also the only player to be involved in all five titles.
There are five numbers associated with four Spurs titles. #9 (Tony Parker) and #20 Manu Ginobili, as well as #2 (Jaren Jackson-1999, Nazr Mohammed- 2005, Melvin Ely- 2007, and Kawhi Leonard- 2014), #4 (Steve Kerr- 1999, Sean Marks- 2005, Michael Finley- 2007, and Danny Green- 2014), and #11 (Brandon Williams- 1999, Mike Wilks- 2005, Jacque Vaughn- 2007, Jeff Ayers- 2014).
The next set of jersey numbers are those associated with three of the Spurs NBA titles.
Those numbers are 3, 5, 8, 12, 17, and 33.
#3- Between the 2005 and 2014 Championships
After Glenn Robinson’s twenty-two games with the San Antonio Spurs, “Big Dog” retired an NBA Champion. He left behind #3 which went dormant for a few years including the 2007 title run.
The next player to wear #3 was Keith Langford who played two games with the Silver & Black in December 2007 before joining the D-League Austin Toros. These were his two lone NBA games during his career which has taken place predominantly overseas. Global pandemic pending, Langford will enter his sixteenth season in the autumn.
That same season on February 3, 2008, Damon Stoudamire signed with the Spurs off waivers from Memphis. He played in thirty-one regular season games as well as a septet of postseason games. He retired after his short stint with San Antonio and moved into coaching, a career in which he is still active.
And then came George Hill
Chosen 26th by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, Hill became the first player drafted from IUPUI. He spent three season with the San Antonio Spurs. In his first season, he served as back-up point guard to Tony Parker.
In the summer between his rookie and sophomore seasons, Hill put in time with Chad Forcier and Chip Engelland. At the behest of Bruce Bowen, Hill added the three-point shot to his repertoire. The result was a significant increase in minutes as well as starting in over half the season’s games for Parker.
And perhaps this is part of the reason he has been acknowledged as Gregg Popovich’s favorite player:
“Yeah, I don’t know why. Things happen. You feel like that with certain players. I admittedly, unabashedly called him my favorite player in front of Timmy, Manu, and Tony all the time. I don’t think they really cared. He had a great work ethic. I just enjoyed his personality. I enjoyed trying to help turn him into a point guard because he wasn’t really a point guard in a classic sense. He’s more of a scorer. So it’s fun to watch him grow and understand what a point guard has to think about and do. That’s always fun. You feel like you’re coaching and actually doing something instead of ‘Run that drill. Deny that pass. Make sure you run back on defense. Block out.’ That’s boring. That’s awful. When you watch somebody develop that’s a lot more fun.”- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich
An additional recognition of his efforts yielded a tie involving he, Kevin Durant and Marc Gasol for second in voting behind Aaron Brooks for the 2009-2010 Most Improved Player.
In his third season, George Hill maintained his impressive stats while coming off the bench for a majority of the campaign. Unfortunately, that would be his final season in San Antonio.
As every Spurs fan knows, Hill was the sacrifice in making San Antonio’s next step to maintain the Big 3 Era’s sustainability. George Hill was traded to Indiana.
In hindsight, at least initially speaking, the Spurs once again got the better end of the deal. For Hill, Indiana gave up their 1st round draft pick (Kawhi Leonard) as well as the 42nd (Davis Bertans) and draft rights to 2005’s 46th pick Erazem Lorbek. Over the next few years, Leonard and Bertans would shine for the Spurs and eventually San Antonio would win the 2014 Championship.
Since then, both Leonard and Bertans were traded respectively for what essentially turned into DeMar DeRozan and DeMarre Carroll. DeRozan can currently opt out of his final year and seek a new contract. DeMarre Carroll was waived.
After George Hill, the only player to wear #3 before it made its way to the 2014 NBA Finals was Stephen Jackson during his second run with the Spurs from March 15, 2012 to April 12, 2013.
But, fortunately, #3 would re-emerge again for the “The Sweetest” title in San Antonio’s history.
NEXT TIME: ‘Mama Mia’, it’s Marco Belinelli!
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