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Spurs By the Numbers- Charlie Ward is the only Heisman Trophy winner to play in the NBA

The former quarterback is only Heisman Trophy recipient to play in the NBA.

Suns v Spurs Photo by D.Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.

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, #4, and #11.

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 continue our look at #17.


Charlie Ward

Spurs v Jazz

It is an understatement to say Charlie Ward is an amazing and versatile athlete. Most people know him from the NBA, which is a pretty exclusive club to begin with.

But collegiate football fans know him as the quarterback of the Florida State University Seminoles. His college career earned him the Heisman Trophy, the crowning achievement in a career steeped in accolades. To date, he is the only Heisman Trophy winner to ever play in the NBA.

Ward had an interest in the NFL but stated clearly he deserved to be drafted during the first round. He did not go in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft and instead opted to accept the New York Knicks’ offer after being chosen 26th in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft.

In addition to his options in the NFL and NBA, Ward was drafted in the MLB by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1993 free agent draft and by the the New York Yankees in 1994 in the 18th round. Charlie also participated in the Arthur Ashe Amateur Tennis Tournament in 1994.

Quarterback, point guard, pitcher, and tennis player, Charlie Ward had many roads open to him.

But the NBA is where Ward found his home, and as a member of the Knicks he was comically referred to as “best quarterback in New York” due to his Heisman and the difficulties that both Jets and Giants experienced during this era.

Ward played against the Spurs in 1999 in the NBA Finals as the Spurs went to win their first title during the lockout season. He was a New York fan favorite, playing nearly ten seasons with the Knicks before a blockbuster trade sent the point guard to the Phoenix Suns.

On January 5, 2004, the Knicks sent Ward, Howard Eisley, Antonio McDyess, Maciej Lampe, draft rights to Miloš Vujanić, a first-round 2004 draft choice, and an additional future first-round draft choice in exchange for Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybański.

Interesting outcome- a month later, the two draft picks from New York were used along with Tom Gugliatta, a 2005 second-round draft pick and cash considerations to trade with the Utah Jazz for Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten. The 2004 draft pick became Kirk Snyder. The 2010 draft pick was Gordon Hayward. Who could have known in January of 2004 that the biggest piece of the trade was Hayward six years later?

Ward was immediately waived the following day, on January 6, having never suited up for the Suns. This left him an opportunity to join another team.

Spurs v Hawks Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Friday, January 9, just three days after being waived by the Suns, the Spurs signed Charlie Ward for the remainder of the season.

“We are thrilled that Charlie Ward has decided to join the Spurs family,” San Antonio General Manager R.C. Buford said. “He is a veteran leader and a proven winner.”

Ward played in thirty-six of the remaining regular season games and supported the Silver & Black in the post season in three of the four games against the Memphis Grizzlies and in two of the games against the All-Star stacked* Los Angeles Lakers who would eventually best the Spurs and then fall to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.

Ward wore #17 for those forty-one games before the Spurs’ season ended and Charlie said goodbye. He signed with the Houston Rockets and played in only fourteen games before injuries led to his retirement.

Since retiring, Ward served as an assistant coach to the Rockets as well as multiple head coaching positions for both football and basketball at the high school level. He joined his college alma mater as head coach to their developmental research high school in Tallahassee. Additionally, he hosts a web series called “Chalk Talk.” Ward recently played himself in the Netflix series Family Reunion.

Charlie Ward is extremely active in his faith and has chosen some of his coaching positions specifically because he is afforded the opportunity to work with young people on their journey to know Jesus Christ.

His journey also earned his the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award in 2011.

Next Up: Brent Barry

*This was the year the starting five included Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton. Quick trivia- who was the fifth starter?

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