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. Today we look at #8.
We started our journey of ocho with Ozell Jones, followed by Paul Pressey who was with the Spurs for 1990-1992 as a player but returned as an assistant coach. The number would go unused for a decade (save a denary of games in late 1996 by Tim Kempton). Steve Smith wore eight during the 2003 NBA Finals, but only played the final 36 seconds once Pop pulled the starters out.
No sooner was Steve Smith heading to New Orleans than Rasho Nesterovic was moving in from Minnesota, where he’d been drafted seventeenth overall in the 1998 draft by the Timberwolves.
He played his first five seasons with the T-Wolves (if you count the last two games of his rookie season as a full season). He’d been overseas winning a EuroLeague Championship.
At the end of Spurs 2003 NBA Championship, David Robinson retired leaving a physical and cultural hole in the Spurs line-up. Gregg Popovich set his sights on Nesterovic, even heading overseas to meet with him. Eventually the Spurs offered him a 6-year/$42M contract which was a hefty amount at the time.
Rasho started in all eighty-two games for the Spurs in the 2003-2004 season averaging 8.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 assists, and 0.6 steals, all bests during his tenure in San Antonio.
An ankle injury limited Nesterovic to seventy games the following season, and although he saw his minutes diminish, Rasho started the games he played during the regular season. The tables turned on him in the postseason as he no longer started and, in fact, sat out eight of the twenty-three playoff and Finals games. He did win a title along with fellow Slovenian Beno Udrih.
The 2005-2006 brought less time for Rasho. He lost his starting position to Nazr Mohammad who had taken over during the 2005 NBA Finals. At the end of the season, Rasho Nesterovic was traded to the Toronto Raptors for Matt Bonner, Eric Williams, and a 2009 second round draft pick which became Jack McClinton (who never played in the NBA).
Nesterovic spent two season in Toronto before another trade sent him to Indiana. After one season with the Pacers, he returned to the Raptors for another season.
Rasho returned to Europe where he retired. He has since served Secretary-General of the Basketball Federation of Slovenia. He was elected a member of the FIBA commission of players in 2015.
Perhaps a lesser known fact, Nesterovic is godfather to Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.
Next up: Roger Mason
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