Best NBA Draft steals of all time: George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs
Sometimes a player comes around that can alter the trajectory of an NBA franchise.
George Gervin was that player for the San Antonio Spurs.
After college, Gervin signed a contract to play basketball for the Virginia Squires, a team in the American Basketball Association.
Shortly after signing the contract, Gervin was essentially sold to the San Antonio Spurs — also an ABA team at the time — due to the Squires’ lack of funds.
After his second season of professional basketball, Gervin became eligible for the 1974 NBA Draft where the Phoenix Suns selected him with the 40th overall pick. Instead of joining the Suns, Gervin elected to continue playing in the ABA with the Spurs.
Before Gervin’s arrival in San Antonio, the Spurs were primarily a slow, defensive-minded team. Gervin’s speed and scoring ability allowed the team to change their identity and become more transition-oriented. The new style of play eventually caught the eye of the NBA and the Spurs became part of the NBA during the 1976 ABA-NBA merger.
Throughout his 15-year career, Gervin became a 12-time All Star, All-league team nine times (seven with the NBA, two with the ABA), scoring champion in four different seasons and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
His No. 44 jersey is retired by the Spurs.
It’s hard to argue that Gervin is a draft steal, when he never joined the team that drafted him, but his impact alone well exceeds the 40th pick in which the Suns took him.