This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and their consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made the franchise one of the most successful of all time. As we look back on the Silver & Black, we recognize the top 50 players in Spurs history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.
Number 28: Mario Elie
When it comes to the Spurs and mythmaking, you won’t find more fertile ground than the 1998-99 season, the one that started with a lockout and, thanks to a poor, 6-8 start, reportedly saw a still-green Gregg Popovich on the hot seat with Doc Rivers, allegedly, waiting to make the move from the broadcast booth to the Spurs sidelines. That it instead ended with San Antonio’s first title and cemented Pop as the team’s coach for the present and future, solidified David Robinson’s legacy and tethered a 2nd year Tim Duncan to the organization is what makes the season one of the more interesting what-ifs in the league’s history. It’s also what elevates the parts played by figures like Mario Elie, who had just arrived months earlier.
Elie came to San Antonio as a two-time champion, which is the kind of cache not lost on either him, his teammates or the front office that brought him in. The Spurs came into the season with experience, but lacked some pedigree, plenty of talent but lacking in edge. The former Rocket brought that, shifting his way from a bench role to begin the year to the starting lineup and bringing the kind of attitude lacking in a roster often dismissed as soft.
Between the regular season and postseason, the Spurs lost just 7 games with Elie as a starter. The Junkyard Dog was a fixture in crunch time throughout the title run. He was the one who threaded the sideline pass to Sean Elliott for the Memorial Day Miracle bucket, and also provided his own share of clutch buckets along the way.
Next up: How many rings does this guy need?
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