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Spurs 50 for 50, Number 18: Malik Rose

Rose’s inclusion is a tribute to dirty work, and those willing to do it on a nightly basis.

Malik Rose #31...

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 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 them one of the most successful organizations of all time. As we look back on the Silver and Black, we recognize the top 50 players in franchise history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.

18 - Malik Rose

Sneakers squeak over a floor of tan, teal and fuchsia; a young fan bends his neck to peek around the giant curtain bisecting the arena; five feet from the basket, an undersized power forward gets even lower to push his 7-foot opponent off the block, every hard-earned inch the product of a career defined by having to outwork the next guy. The NBA isn’t meant to be a relatable viewing experience — it’s a stage for athletes with not only astonishing talent but outlier size, consolidating those traits to play at a height most of us literally can’t reach. And while it’s underselling someone like Malik Rose to consider him anything less than in that same stratosphere of hooper, watching him bridge the nightly gap in physical tools by winning on the margins made him something of a totem for the common fan.

13th all time in games played as a Spur, the 6-foot-7 Rose hung around between 1997 and 2005, when he was traded midseason to Knicks (along with a first-rounder that became future Spurs legend David Lee) for Nazr Mohammed. He missed out on the 2005 title, but was still a piece of two other title teams in 1999 and 2003, typically coming off the bench but often absorbing minutes banging against starting power forwards or centers. In those 7 12 seasons, Rose averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, but the numbers don’t relate the tone-setting effort he regularly put in, or what he spared on Tim Duncan and David Robinson’s legs by being willing to battle with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal whenever needed.

Shaquille O’Neal is under pressure Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

There aren’t many highlights of Rose to show younger fans — one of the clips I routinely enjoyed, set to DMX’s “X Gon Give it to Ya”, got taken off YouTube sometime ago — but whatever you can dredge up will probably give the gist of the Shaq of the NAC experience: rebounds won by early positioning and extra effort; flailing baskets after bouncing off defenders or high-arcing 17-footers off a pick and pop; he dunked on Dikembe Mutombo at least once. Look up “Spursy” in a dictionary and you might see Rose’s beaming face next to the entry, if you owned a niche enough dictionary.

Next up: A forgotten name among the franchise’s statistical leaders.

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