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 jersey numbers associated with four Spurs titles. Obviously #9 Tony Parker and #20 Manu Ginobili, but jerseys #2, #4, #5 and #11 have multiple players who wore them during titles runs.
The next set of jersey numbers are those associated with three of the Spurs NBA titles. #12 Bruce Bowen as well as #3, #8, #17, and #33.
In honor of this year’s draftee Tre Jones wearing #33, we’ve taken a look back at how we got here.
Prior to Tre, fourteen Spurs have worn thirty-three.
Part one featured Michael Wiley, Bill Willoughby, Steve Johnson, Greg “Cadillac” Anderson.
Part two featured Uwe Blab, Dave Greenwood, Jud Buechler, “Cadillac” Anderson’s return, and Antonio Daniels who was part of the Spurs 1999 NBA Championship.
Between the 1999 and 2007 Championships, only one player played as #33, and even then only for one season.
As mentioned in Part 2, Antonio Daniels was the fourth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Two spots later, Ron Mercer was drafted by the Boston Celtics to play along with fellow NCAA Champion Antoine Walker (who coincidentally went in the sixth spot the previous year) as well as former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino.
Pitino fooled the NBA by stating he didn’t believe Mercer had the talent to move high in the draft. He did so to detour teams from taking the Wildcat’s swingman. His ploy worked and Mercer was available when the Celtics chose. But, despite averaging 15.9 points per game in Bean Town, the Celtics traded Mercer after two seasons sending him into a journeyman spiral.
He split his third season between Denver and Orlando where he averaged 18.3 and 15.2 points per game respectively. His third season scoring average of 19.7 was enough to keep the Chicago Bulls interested, and Ron Mercer went to his fifth team in as many seasons.
While in Indiana, his playing time dipped reducing stats in all categories.
By the time he was traded to San Antonio in a three-team deal with the Sacramento Kings and Pacers that also brought Hedo Turkoglu to the Spurs.
Mercer had his worst NBA season, playing in 39 games for the Silver & Black before being waived at the end of the season.
James White’s NBA story is strange and unfortunate. That said, the man has an NBA Championship ring and continued to play worldwide.
White was drafted 31st in the 2006 Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers but was traded to the Indiana Pacers. He played during the preseason for the Pacers before being cut in what Rick Carlisle described as a most difficult cut.
The Spurs signed James White to a two-year contract but spent most of his first season with the Austin Toros while the veteran heavy San Antonio Spurs pushed their way to a fourth NBA title. White saw action in only six games before the Spurs waived him at the end of the season. He has played a majority of his career overseas and only returned for brief stints with the Houston Rockets (four games) and New York Knicks (fifty-seven games).
White is still active and playing in Europe where he has racked up multiple championships and all-star accolades with various clubs and leagues.
NEXT UP: #33 picks up a third title by one of the Spurs most enigmatic players.
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