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 — 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.
The three who wore #3 as part of a Spurs Championship: Stephen Jackson in 2003, Glenn Robinson in 2005, and Marco Belinelli in 2014. We’ve covered those over the last week. For now, let’s go back to the beginning.
Before Stephen Jackson, a bevy of players wore #3
You may not know all the names, but there were some particularly notable names for trivia buffs (if you know coaches) who donned #3 with the Spurs before heading to the sidelines permanently.
Jersey #3 had not been worn by a Spurs player until Ennis Whatley wore it on February 4th and 6th in 1986. Although he only suited up twice, #3 was now in the rotation and less than a week later it would be back on a different player.
*Ironically, in the photo above, Ennis Whatley is #8 on the Portland Trail Blazers. The #3 Spurs player is Sean Higgins (see below).*
Jeff Lamp only played in 30 games with the San Antonio Spurs in 1986, but they were his best. He averaged 11.1 points per game with the Silver and Black, a feat he never matched with any other NBA team. Coincidentally, Lamp always wore #3 during college and in the NBA. His #3 has been retired by the Virginia Cavaliers. Lamp now works for the NBA Player’s Association.
Nate Blackwell was drafted 27th overall by the Spurs in 1987. He played in ten games that season and never played for another NBA team during his career.
Keith Smart’s NBA career fully embodied two games November 5th and 11th in 1988 with the Spurs after signing to San Antonio. He played with nine other non-NBA teams before transitioning into coaching with the Fort Wayne Fury, his last team as a player. He has since carved a prolific career as an NBA coach with the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Kings after serving as an assistant with each franchise. He’s also assistant coached for the Heat, Grizzlies, and Knicks.
Originally drafted in 1985 by the San Antonio Spurs, Scott Roth opted to play overseas. Upon entering the NBA, he joined the Utah Jazz before playing forty-seven games with the Spurs in 1989. He retired in 1994 and has served as an assistant coach for the Mavericks, Grizzlies. Warriors, Raptors, and Pistons. Roth was head coach for the D-League Bakersfield Jam. He is currently an assistant coach in Australia with the Perth Wildcats.
Sean Higgins was selected 54th by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1990 NBA Draft. He played fifty games during his rookie season, but only suited up for six during his second season before being put on waiver son December 13, 1991. Higgins is currently USA director and managing of Nine Star Basketball Camps development services.
Dale Ellis was traded to the San Antonio from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Tracy Murray. He spent the next two seasons in San Antonio as a starter averaging just under sixteen points over the two-year span.
Monty Williams 1996-1998
Traded by New York with Charles Smith to San Antonio in exchange for J.R. Reid, Brad Lohaus and a 1996 1st-round draft pick on Feb. 8, 1996, Monty Williams time in San Antonio as a player would be short, but his connection with head coach Gregg Popovich eventually brought him back to the Spurs. In 2016, Williams became the vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs. As vice president, Williams won the Sager Strong Award. In May of 2019, the Phoenix Suns announces the hiring of Monty as their new head coach.
Ira Newble signed with the San Antonio, his first NBA team after three seasons with minor league US teams and some European play. He suited up for twenty-seven games. There were no available photos of Newble in a Spurs jersey, but ironically, there was one of him defending #3 Stephen Jackson, the man who wore #3 after him and played with the Spurs in their second NBA title run.
Next up: After Marco Belinelli, five players each wore #3 for one season each. Will the current #3 break the streak of single-season Spurs participation?
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