The San Antonio Spurs came to life as a charter member of the old American Basketball Association in 1967 as the Dallas Chaparrals.
The franchise played all nine seasons of the ABA’s existence, the first three as the Dallas Chaparrals, the fourth as the renamed Texas Chaparrals and then two more as the Dallas Chaparrals once again.
For the first four seasons, the team played the bulk of its home games at Southern Methodist University’s Moody Coliseum in Dallas, adding some “home” games in 1970-71 at the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum and the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth.
The Chaparrals played their final two seasons at the Dallas Convention Center before they were sold, on a provisional basis, to a San Antonio-based group headed by John Schaefer, B.J. “Red” McCombs, Art Burdick and Angelo Drossos. The team was moved to San Antonio and, after a short-lived stint as the Gunslingers, opened the 1973-74 season as the newly minted San Antonio Spurs.
The trial run in San Antonio was supposed to last three years and if there wasn’t enough interest there, the club would be sold back to Dallas. But after just one year in San Antonio, the purchase was completed and there would be no looking back.
In 1976-77, the Spurs were one of four members of the ABA admitted to the NBA, joining the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and New York Nets.
The team played at the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio for 20 seasons, leaving the crumbling building after the 1992-93 season in favor of a nine-year run at the Alamodome. San Antonio moved into what is now known as the AT&T Center before the 2002-03 season and celebrated their first season in the new building with the franchise’s second title.
The Chaparrals made the ABA playoffs in five of their six seasons while the Spurs reached the postseason in all three of their ABA campaigns. Since joining the NBA, San Antonio has made the playoffs 33 times in 37 seasons and won titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
So who are the best players by position in the history of the franchise? Read on.
Note: Players must have 250 games played with the franchise to qualify for this list.
Small Forward: Sean Elliott (1989-93, 1994-2001)
Sean Elliott came to San Antonio as the third overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft from Arizona. Installed almost immediately as a starter, Elliott averaged 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent in four years with the club and earned an All-Star berth in 1993.
In October 1993, Elliott was dealt with David Wood and a 1996 first-round pick (Jerome Williams) to the Detroit Pistons for Dennis Rodman, Isaiah Morris, a 1994 second-round pick (Antonio Lang) and a 1996 first-rounder (John Wallace).
But Elliott would return to San Antonio after just one season. The Pistons tried to trade Elliott to the Houston Rockets in February 1994, but the deal was voided. That summer, Elliott was sent back to the Spurs in a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Pistons getting Bill Curley and a second-round pick in 1997 (Charles O’Bannon).
Elliott missed much of the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons after undergoing a kidney transplant. But he was part of San Antonio’s first championship team in 1999, averaging 11.2 points and 30.2 minutes a game in the regular season and 11.9 points and 33.8 minutes during the playoffs.
Elliott ranks sixth all-time with 669 games and fifth with 22,093 minutes played. His 9,659 points as a Spur ranks eighth in franchise history and he is 10th in team annals with 2,941 rebounds.
Elliott may, however, be best remembered for the Memorial Day Miracle against the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1999 playoffs.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan (1997-present)
Tim Duncan isn’t just the finest power forward ever to suit up for the Spurs; he is arguably the best ever … period.
Duncan came to San Antonio as the top overall pick in the 1997 draft and made an immediate impact. Duncan was an All-Star en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1997-98 and has followed that up by winning back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player honors in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Duncan is also a three-time NBA Finals MVP and is the only player to be part of all four of San Antonio’s NBA championship squads.
In 16 seasons, Duncan is a 14-time All-Star (the game was cancelled in 1998-99) and is a nine-time First Team All-NBA selection. His career player efficiency rating (PER) of 24.7 is ranked ninth in NBA history and he is also in the top 10 all-time in blocked shots (2,652, eighth place) and win shares (184.2, eighth place).
Despite being a 14-time selection to an All-Defensive Team, one honor that has eluded Duncan is the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Duncan has averaged a double-double over his career, with marks of 20.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game over his 1,180 career games. He has played more games and minutes (41,447) than any Spur in history and is also the franchise’s career leader in rebounds (13,219) and points (23,785). His 2,652 blocks are second in club history, he is fourth with 3,612 assists and sixth with 872 steals.
Duncan, known as “The Big Fundamental,” could do clinics on post moves.
Center: David Robinson (1989-2003)
“The Admiral” proved to be worth the wait. The Spurs tabbed Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 draft, but had to wait two years before Robinson would be able to play. Robinson had an obligation to the U.S. Navy—two years of active duty service after attending school as the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Robinson played 14 seasons for San Antonio, averaging 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and helping the team to championships in 1999 and 2003. Robinson won the league’s scoring title in 1993-94, averaging 29.8 points per game. A member of the original U.S. Olympic Dream Team in 1992, Robinson entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Robinson is San Antonio’s all-time leader in steals (1,388) and blocked shots (2,954) and his 26.2 career PER is also the best in franchise annals.
He ranks second in franchise history with 987 games and 34,271 minutes played, as well as being No. 2 in rebounds (10,497) and third in points with 20,790. His 2,441 assists are seventh-best in Spurs’ history.
How versatile was Robinson at his best? Try on a quadruple-double (34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks) against the Detroit Pistons in February 1994.
Shooting Guard: George Gervin (1974-85)
“The Iceman” was a four-time NBA scoring champion (1977-78, 1978-79, 1979-80 and 1981-82) and was the San Antonio Spurs’ meal ticket during their early years in the NBA.
Gervin came to the Spurs in a controversial purchase of his rights from the floundering Virginia Squires in the ABA. The ABA challenged the transaction, setting off a three-way legal battle between the Spurs, Squires and ABA commissioner Mike Storen. In the end, the courts upheld the deal and Gervin belonged to the Spurs—perhaps the best $225,000 expenditure in franchise history.
Gervin was one of the rare players that made the transition from the ABA to the NBA—he got better after the merger. Gervin was only 23 when the leagues came together and after averaging 21.9 points per game in ABA play, “Ice” averaged 27.3 points per game in his nine NBA seasons in San Antonio.
In his 11-plus seasons with the Spurs, Gervin scored 23,602 points, second-most in club history. He played in two ABA All-Star games and nine more in the NBA representing San Antonio and was a five-time All-NBA First Team selection.
Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls in October 1985 in exchange for Dave Greenwood and after one season with the Bulls, played a season in Italy before wrapping up his career in 1989-90 in Spain.
His 899 games and 31,115 minutes are third in the Spurs’ record books and he is also third with 4,841 rebounds and 938 blocked shots. His 1,159 steals are second-best in club annals and he is sixth with 2,523 assists—no, he didn’t pass much, but he sure could finger roll.
Here are some highlights from a career that was capped by Gervin’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
Point Guard: Tony Parker (2001-present)
Born in Belgium and raised in France, Parker came to the Spurs as the 28th overall pick in the 2001 draft.
Parker has been part of three championship squads in San Antonio and is a five-time NBA All-Star who was named MVP of the NBA Finals in 2007.
Parker is a remarkably efficient player, shooting 49.4 percent in his career and averaging 17.1 points and six assists per game. In his 12-year career Parker has 14,917 points, logged 5,247 assists and recorded a PER of 19.1.
The assist total is tops in franchise history and the points rank him fourth. With 836 steals, Parker ranks seventh on the franchise’s all-time list and he is fourth with 872 games and 28,688 minutes.
Here’s what Parker has done for us lately, as in his top 10 plays from 2012-13.