159. Sean Elliott
But the Spurs pulled things together in the playoff and defeated Portland only to lose to Phoenix in the second round.
Sean Elliott is the first of the modern players to make our list. Elliott played nearly his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, the exception being a season with the Detroit Pistons.
Elliott grew up in Arizona and went to the University of Arizona where he averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds in four years. After 4 years with the Wildcats Elliott entered the 1989 NBA Draft where he was selected 3rd overall.
Elliott’s first year with the Spurs was overshadowed by the arrival of David Robinson. Elliott and Robison helped the Spurs to their first plus five hundred season since 82-83. Elliott was named to the all-rookie second team his first season after averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds a game. That first year also saw the Spurs sweep the Denver Nuggets in the first round than lose a heartbreaking 7th game to the Portland Trailblazers.
Elliott continued to improve his second season as his scoring jumped up to nearly 16 points a game, but playoff success continued to allude the Spurs as they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors. In the 91-92 seasons the Spurs had a difficult season as Robinson was hurt on and off and they once again lost in the first round.
The 92-93 season would see Elliott make his first all-star game, and also see him miss his first significant time due to an injury.
Prior to the 94-95 Elliott was traded to the Detroit Pistons for Dennis Rodman. Elliott struggled to find his role with the rebuilding Pistons and played there only one year. He become a free agent at the end of the year and promptly returned to the Spurs.
The 94-95 season looked promising for both Elliott and the Spurs. Elliot had his best season to date and the Spurs locked up the top seed in the west. The Spurs crushed the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and rolled past the Los Angeles Lakers only to have their hopes crushed by the 6th seeded Houston Rockets as the Rockets went on to defend their NBA Title.
Elliott would have his best season of his career in 95-96 averaging 20 points and 5 rebounds a game as the Spurs once again thought they had a shot at winning a title. The Spurs once again won the Midwest division and defeated Phoenix in the first round. However, in the Western Semi-finals the Spurs team was embarrassed by the Utah Jazz in six games.
Elliott’s struggled in 96-97 would become a microcosm of the Spurs season that year. Elliott would only play 39 games, average only 14 points and the Spurs won only 20 games. The horrible season did have a silver lining as the Spurs won the NBA draft lottery and selected Tim Duncan.
Injuries would once again plague Elliott’s season in 97-98 as he failed to play 40 games for the second consecutive year. Elliott would come back and play in all 50 games the lockout shortened season of 98-99. With recent playoff failures in mind the Spurs were once again cautious entering the playoffs having captured the top seed. The Spurs cruised past the Timberwolves in the opening round and swept the LA Lakers in the second round.
In game two of the Western Conference Finals Sean Elliott would have his most memorable moment as an NBA player. With second remaining and the Spurs trailing by one Elliott caught the inbound pass, turned and made an improbable 21 foot shot giving the Spurs the lead. The shot would go down in NBA lore as the Memorial Day Miracle and helped the Spurs take a 2-0 lead over the Blazers, which the Spurs eventually would sweep and advance to the NBA finals for the first time in their history.
In the finals the Spurs would face the 8th seeded New York Knicks. Unlike in past years were the Spurs had huge let downs vs. underdogs the Spurs crushed the Knicks and won their first NBA title.
Shortly after winning the title Elliott announced he had kidney dieses and would need a transplant. His brother donated a kidney and Elliott would turn in March of 2000 and become the first player in NBA history to play after receiving a kidney transplant. Alonzo Mourning would become the second later that decade.
Elliott would play one final year after getting his kidney transplant having become the Spurs all-time leader in three point makes and attempts and is the only player in Spurs history to be in the top 10 in six statistical categories. For a brief time he worked as an analysis on NBC and ESPN and is currently doing the color commentating for the Spurs local broadcasts. His #32 was retired by the Spurs in March of 2005.
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