Memorial Day Miracle Set This Team On Starlight Path To Greatness

By Gregory Moore
Updated: May 26, 2005

Sean Elliott became a legend in Spurs history with his shot against the Portland Trailblazers on May 31, 1999. Now the question for Spurs fans is whether there is another “Sean” on the 2005 roster to elevate them to the next round of the playoffs.

SAN ANTONIO — It’s hard to believe but just six years ago this weekend, the 1999 San Antonio Spurs were on their way to making franchise history. I should know because I was dab smack in the middle of it when it was going down. It had been six years prior that myself and several other Spurs media cadre members were toiling around wondering when will this team finally break out of mediocrity of winning a few playoff games and into that elite stratosphere known as a title contender. So when the Spurs defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the firs round and then foreclosed on the Great Western Forum as they swept the Los Angeles Lakers with some hot shooting by Jaren Jackson, nobody thought that the Spurs were going to defeat the Portland Trailblazers in the same manner. But something happened during those first two games against what was at the time one of the most feared and deepest squads in the history of the NBA; the Spurs found grit, guts and fortitude to overcome not one game derailments but there was a Memorial Day miracle that set this franchise onto a path that has guided them to a stellar playoff run.

There is something to be said about that weekend, especially after the Spurs escaped game one with a win. The whole weekend was ablaze and I can remember vividly how hot and humid it was to be there that day. For the most part of the couple of hours before that Monday’s game, I hung out with Andrew Ashwood, who was the Programd Director for Clear Channel’s WOAI at that time and JT The Brick. The Game Day Warm Up Crew, including one Charlie Parker, was trying to just stay cool. JT’s then girlfriend, Julie, was trying to do the same and she went walking. From the broadcast point outside of the Alamodome, we all took in the wondrous sight of thousands of Spurs fans gearing up for what later on would be one of those moments where you say, “Do you remember where you were when Sean Elliott didn’t go out of bounds?” For some unimaginable reason this one infinitesimal weekend back in May of 1999 has set this franchise on a path where only few franchises have ever traveled. Storied franchises are made from moments like this so when the “lightening in a bottle” equation comes up again under almost identical circumstances, even the alchemists of the NBA analytical circles are in awe of what may happen. There is only one player left from that 1999 team that did the unthinkable and that individual is Tim Duncan. Gone are his starting five mates of Elliott, David Robinson, Mario Elie and Avery Johnson. Gone are the bench cast of Antonio Daniels, Will Perdue, Andrew Gaze, Malik Rose, Jerome Kersey and Malik Rose. The 2003 championship team doesn’t remember that weekend I speak of because back then nobody in Spurs land knew who Tony Parker was or that Manu Ginobili was that good. Bruce Bowen was a member of the Miami Heat back then and Nazr Muhammad was just three years removed from winning a college national title with Kentucky. That is why it seems so appropriate for Duncan, a man who was just two years into the league back then, be the senior member on a team that could relieve the history making era that has come to be known as the weekend a miracle rained on the court.

Basketball analysts shouldn’t believe in such fodder but it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment that maybe this weekend could very well be the chance to sit in a building and watch another swingman do the impossible. Ginobili is the modern day Sean Elliott for this team but he isn’t alone. Brent Barry, Glen Robinson, Devin Brown, Bowen and Parker could all be instrumental in hitting a momentum-changing jumper from the wing. Then again it might Muhammad who hits an eight-foot hook shot in the lane. It might be Beno Udrich who knifes a pass to anyone for a lay-up at a crucial moment in the game. The point is that in 1999 it took one man to bring a franchise into greatness but now it may be the time when a whole team of players learn from history and then go out and repeat it because they are destined to just that; repeat history.

On that fateful Monday afternoon in 1999, I was sitting with Ashwood and JT the Brick on the south side of the stands. Ashwood was too my left and Brick was a seat or so behind him. The play was going away from us and everyone in the place was standing, journalists included. On that fateful day we all forgot about being unbiased witnesses to a historic event because in this business we are essentially the recorders of the basketball annals. On that particular day three grown men from various backgrounds celebrated an event that we all knew would be one of those moments in time. Well that time has come around again some six years later as the San Antonio Spurs, once again have the Larry O’Brien trophy in their sightline. In 1999 they didn’t have a predestined pedigree to go by. All they had was grit.. In 2003 they had the same fortitude but now they were also a wiser bunch. This year could be something totally unique but there is going to be one common factor to how this series ends. If the Spurs close this series out on Monday, we can all point back to Sean Elliott’s shot from the right wing in the Alamodome. That three point shot catapulted the San Antonio Spurs franchise from mediocrity into a contender and it is the backbone of how this team is playing right now; without fear but with a determination to continue the miracle given to them six years ago.