2003 NBA Finals
2003 NBA Finals logo.png
TeamCoachWins
San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich 4
New Jersey Nets Byron Scott 2
DatesJune 4–15
MVPTim Duncan
(San Antonio Spurs)
Hall of FamersSpurs
Tim Duncan (2020)
Manu Ginóbili (2022)
David Robinson (2009)
Nets
Dikembe Mutombo (2015)
Jason Kidd (2018)
Officials:
Dick Bavetta (2015)
Eastern FinalsNets defeated Pistons, 4–0
Western FinalsSpurs defeated Mavericks, 4–2
NBA Finals

The 2003 NBA Finals was the championship round of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 2002–03 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs played the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets for the title, with the Spurs holding home court advantage. The series was played under a best-of-seven format. The Spurs defeated the Nets to win the series 4–2. Spurs' forward Tim Duncan was named the Most Valuable Player of the championship series. The series was broadcast on U.S. television on ABC, with Brad Nessler, Bill Walton, and Tom Tolbert announcing.

The 2003 Finals documentary was narrated by Rodd Houston, who later narrated three other NBA Finals series.

Background

The 2002–03 season had already started as a memorable one for the San Antonio Spurs, as it was the team's first season in their new arena, the SBC Center. However, as this season was one of beginnings, it was also one of endings. During the season, Spurs star David Robinson announced that it was his last season. The NBA Finals also marked the end of Steve Kerr's career as well—he was on the Spurs, having already won three titles with the Chicago Bulls.

Over the last few seasons, injuries had slowed down Robinson's productivity to the point where he missed 18 games in his final season while averaging only 8.5 points per game. Nevertheless, Robinson retired holding Spurs' franchise records in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. The Spurs had a very successful season, finishing 60–22, tying for the best record in the NBA that year.

The playoffs started off shaky for the Spurs as they lost game 1 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Suns in overtime. However, the Spurs bounced back to take the series in 6 games. The second round put the Spurs face-to-face with the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. After splitting the first four games, the Spurs eked out a win in game 5, benefitting from a rare last-second in-and-out miss from the Lakers' clutch-shooter Robert Horry (who helped the Spurs win a title two years later). The Spurs eventually disposed of the Lakers in game 6, ending the Lakers' championship run. In the Conference Finals, the Spurs faced their in-state nemesis, the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs started off slow again, losing game 1 by three points, but took control of the series from there, taking the next three straight. After losing game 5 at home 103–91, the Spurs came from 15 points down in the fourth quarter in game 6 as Steve Kerr buried four 3-pointers in a row to take the series in six games with a 90–78 win in Dallas, advancing to their second NBA Finals in franchise history.

In the meantime the New Jersey Nets, who lost to the Lakers in the finals the previous year, were out to prove that they were serious title contenders, despite the lack of competition in the Eastern Conference. The Nets finished the regular season 49–33, good enough to win the Atlantic Division and clinch the number 2 seed in the East. After splitting the first four games with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, the Nets took control, winning the series in 6 games. From then on, the Nets had no trouble making a return to the NBA Finals, sweeping the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons to win their second straight Eastern Conference championship. With their 49–33 record, the 2003 Nets remain the last team with under 50 wins to reach the NBA Finals.

2003 NBA playoffs

Road to the Finals

Main article: 2003 NBA playoffs

San Antonio Spurs (Western Conference champion) New Jersey Nets (Eastern Conference champion)
# Western Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 z-San Antonio Spurs 60 22 .732
2 y-Sacramento Kings 59 23 .720 1
3 x-Dallas Mavericks 60 22 .732
4 x-Minnesota Timberwolves 51 31 .622 9
5 x-Los Angeles Lakers 50 32 .610 10
6 x-Portland Trail Blazers 50 32 .610 10
7 x-Utah Jazz 47 35 .573 13
8 x-Phoenix Suns 44 38 .537 16
9 Houston Rockets 43 39 .524 17
10 Seattle SuperSonics 40 42 .488 20
11 Golden State Warriors 38 44 .463 22
12 Memphis Grizzlies 28 54 .341 32
13 Los Angeles Clippers 27 55 .329 33
14 Denver Nuggets 17 65 .207 43

1st seed in the West, best league record

Regular season
# Eastern Conference
Team W L PCT GB
1 c-Detroit Pistons 50 32 .610
2 y-New Jersey Nets 49 33 .598 1
3 x-Indiana Pacers 48 34 .585 2
4 x-Philadelphia 76ers 48 34 .585 2
5 x-New Orleans Hornets 47 35 .573 3
6 x-Boston Celtics 44 38 .537 6
7 x-Milwaukee Bucks 42 40 .512 8
8 x-Orlando Magic 42 40 .512 8
9 New York Knicks 37 45 .451 13
10 Washington Wizards 37 45 .451 13
11 Atlanta Hawks 35 47 .427 15
12 Chicago Bulls 30 52 .366 20
13 Miami Heat 25 57 .305 25
14 Toronto Raptors 24 58 .293 26
15 Cleveland Cavaliers 17 65 .207 33

2nd seed in the East, 8th best league record

Defeated the (8) Phoenix Suns, 4–2 First Round Defeated the (7) Milwaukee Bucks, 4–2
Defeated the (5) Los Angeles Lakers, 4–2 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (6) Boston Celtics, 4–0
Defeated the (3) Dallas Mavericks, 4–2 Conference Finals Defeated the (1) Detroit Pistons, 4–0

Regular season series

Both teams split the two meetings, each won by the home team:

November 13, 2002
San Antonio Spurs 82, New Jersey Nets 91
March 6, 2003
New Jersey Nets 78, San Antonio Spurs 92

Rosters

San Antonio Spurs

2002–03 San Antonio Spurs roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY-MM-DD) From
C 34 Bateer, Mengke 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 290 lb (132 kg) 1975–11–20 China
G 12 Bowen, Bruce 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1971–06–14 Cal State Fullerton
G 10 Claxton, Speedy 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 166 lb (75 kg) 1978–05–08 Hofstra
F/C 21 Duncan, Tim 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 255 lb (116 kg) 1976–04–25 Wake Forest
F 35 Ferry, Danny 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1966–10–17 Duke
G 20 Ginóbili, Manu 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1977–07–28 Argentina
F 3 Jackson, Stephen 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1978–04–05 Butler CC
G 25 Kerr, Steve 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1965–09–27 Arizona
G 9 Parker, Tony 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 185 lb (84 kg) 1982–05–17 France
C 50 Robinson, David 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1965–08–06 Navy
F 31 Rose, Malik 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 250 lb (113 kg) 1974–11–23 Drexel
G 8 Smith, Steve 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1969–03–31 Michigan State
F/C 42 Willis, Kevin 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1962–09–06 Michigan State
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Roster
Last transaction: June 5, 2019

New Jersey Nets

2002–03 New Jersey Nets roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Name Height Weight DOB (YYYY-MM-DD) From
G 1 Armstrong, Brandon 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 188 lb (85 kg) 1980–06–16 Pepperdine
C 35 Collins, Jason 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 255 lb (116 kg) 1978–12–02 Stanford
G 12 Harris, Lucious 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1970–12–18 Long Beach State
F 24 Jefferson, Richard 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 222 lb (101 kg) 1980–06–21 Arizona
G 2 Johnson, Anthony 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1974–10–02 College of Charleston
G 5 Kidd, Jason 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 204 lb (93 kg) 1973–03–23 California
G 30 Kittles, Kerry 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 179 lb (81 kg) 1974–06–12 Villanova
F 13 Marshall, Donny 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1972–07–17 Connecticut
F 6 Martin, Kenyon 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 234 lb (106 kg) 1977–12–30 Cincinnati
C 55 Mutombo, Dikembe 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1966–06–25 Georgetown
F 54 Rogers, Rodney 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1971–06–20 Wake Forest
F 21 Scalabrine, Brian 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 241 lb (109 kg) 1978–03–18 Southern California
G 8 Slay, Tamar 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1980–04–02 Marshall
C 34 Williams, Aaron 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1971–10–02 Xavier
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Roster
Last transaction: June 5, 2019

Series summary

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1 June 4 San Antonio Spurs 101–89 (1–0) New Jersey Nets
Game 2 June 6 San Antonio Spurs 85–87 (1–1) New Jersey Nets
Game 3 June 8 New Jersey Nets 79–84 (1–2) San Antonio Spurs
Game 4 June 11 New Jersey Nets 77–76 (2–2) San Antonio Spurs
Game 5 June 13 New Jersey Nets 83–93 (2–3) San Antonio Spurs
Game 6 June 15 San Antonio Spurs 88–77 (4–2) New Jersey Nets

The Finals were played using a 2–3–2 site format, where the first two and last two games are held at the team with home court advantage. The NBA, after experimenting in the early years, restored this original format for the Finals in 1985. So far, the other playoff series are still running on a 2–2–1–1–1 site format.

Game 4 at Continental Airlines Arena was a sellout.[1]

This was the last Finals' series to be played on a Wednesday–Friday–Sunday rotation, which was used starting in 1991 when NBC began carrying the NBA. Starting with the 2004 NBA Finals, all games were played on Thursday–Sunday–Tuesday format until 2016, when it was changed to allow for two days off each time teams traveled.

Game summaries

Game 1

June 4, 2003
7:30 pm
New Jersey Nets 89, San Antonio Spurs 101
Scoring by quarter: 21–18, 21–24, 17–32, 30–27
Pts: Kenyon Martin 21
Rebs: Kenyon Martin 12
Asts: Jason Kidd 10
Pts: Tim Duncan 32
Rebs: Tim Duncan 20
Asts: Tim Duncan 6
SBC Center, San Antonio, Texas
Referees: Dick Bavetta, Joe Crawford, Joe DeRosa

Game 2

ABC
June 6, 2003
7:30 pm
New Jersey Nets 87, San Antonio Spurs 85
Scoring by quarter: 19–18, 22–17, 25–21, 21–29
Pts: Jason Kidd 30
Rebs: Kidd, Harris 7 each
Asts: Kenyon Martin 4
Pts: Tony Parker 21
Rebs: Tim Duncan 12
Asts: Tony Parker 5
SBC Center, San Antonio, Texas
Referees: Dan Crawford, Bob Delaney, Bennett Salvatore

Game 3

ABC
June 8, 2003
8:30 pm
San Antonio Spurs 84, New Jersey Nets 79
Scoring by quarter: 15–21, 18–9, 21–27, 30–22
Pts: Tony Parker 26
Rebs: Tim Duncan 16
Asts: Tim Duncan 7
Pts: Kenyon Martin 23
Rebs: Kenyon Martin 11
Asts: Jason Kidd 11
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Referees: Ron Garretson, Steve Javie, Jack Nies

Game 4

ABC
June 11, 2003
8:30 pm
San Antonio Spurs 76, New Jersey Nets 77
Scoring by quarter: 18–16, 16–29, 23–11, 19–21
Pts: Tim Duncan 23
Rebs: Tim Duncan 17
Asts: Parker, Jackson 3 each
Pts: Kenyon Martin 20
Rebs: Kenyon Martin 13
Asts: Jason Kidd 9
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Referees: Mike Callahan, Bernie Fryer, Eddie Rush

Game 5

ABC
June 13, 2003
8:30 pm
San Antonio Spurs 93, New Jersey Nets 83
Scoring by quarter: 19–18, 23–16, 24–23, 27–26
Pts: Tim Duncan 29
Rebs: Tim Duncan 17
Asts: Duncan, Parker 4 each
Pts: Jason Kidd 29
Rebs: Kenyon Martin 9
Asts: Jason Kidd 7
Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Referees: Dick Bavetta, Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore

Game 6

ABC
June 15, 2003
7:30 pm
New Jersey Nets 77, San Antonio Spurs 88
Scoring by quarter: 25–17, 16–21, 22–19, 14–31
Pts: Jason Kidd 21
Rebs: Kenyon Martin 10
Asts: Jason Kidd 7
Pts: Tim Duncan 21
Rebs: Tim Duncan 20
Asts: Tim Duncan 10
SBC Center, San Antonio, Texas
Referees: Dan Crawford, Bob Delaney, Ron Garretson

Features

While the series received the usual hype of any Finals, it was not heavily anticipated due to the absence of the Lakers, who had won the previous three finals. The Spurs did have a star in Tim Duncan, but at the time he was criticized as being boring compared to flashier players such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

The series largely centered on the half-court offense and defense of each team, with only one team breaking 100 points in the series. The Nets constantly double-teamed Tim Duncan, often allowing him to find open teammates.

Nets point guard Jason Kidd, second to Tim Duncan in MVP voting during the 2003 season, was in the last year of his contract with the team, leading to speculation that the Spurs, a team that could afford to sign him, would pursue him in the free agency following the 2003 Finals despite already having future All-Star Tony Parker on the roster. The underlying story of whether or not Kidd would be in a Spurs uniform the following season continued into the off-season. Kidd visited San Antonio and spoke with team officials, but ultimately re-signed with the Nets.

Perhaps the lasting memory of the series is David Robinson retiring as a champion. In the clinching game 6, Robinson had 13 points and 17 rebounds to complement Tim Duncan on the inside. In that game, the Spurs trailed at one point 72–63 before going on a 19–0 run to put the game away and take the series. Stephen Jackson's three-pointer during the run held the lead permanently. The Spurs' win denied New Jersey from having both NBA and NHL titles in the same year.

Tim Duncan became the 8th player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award a second time. He joined the list of Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal. In the series-clinching game, Duncan came two blocks shy of a quadruple double in an NBA Finals game, an extremely rare feat, finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. Robinson recorded the last quadruple double in NBA history with the Spurs. Duncan and Robinson grabbed 37 rebounds between them, more than the total rebounds of the entire Nets team combined (35).

Steve Kerr joined Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper and Robert Horry as the only players to win at least two championships with two franchises. Kerr won three with the Chicago Bulls (1996–98) and another with the Spurs in 1999. Robert Horry won two with the Houston Rockets (1994–95) and three with the LA Lakers (2000–02), and later went on to win two more with the Spurs in 2005 and 2007.

Impact of the Series

Player statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs statistics
Player GP GS MPG FG% 3FG% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Bruce Bowen 6 6 28.5 .233 .286 1.000 3.2 0.8 0.7 0.3 3.3
Speedy Claxton 6 0 12.5 .560 .000 .750 1.0 1.5 0.7 0.7 6.2
Tim Duncan 6 6 43.8 .495 .000 .685 17.0 5.3 1.0 5.3 24.2
Danny Ferry 3 0 1.0 .000 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Manu Ginóbili 6 0 28.7 .348 .214 .810 4.5 2.0 2.2 0.5 8.7
Stephen Jackson 6 6 35.5 .377 .357 .500 4.2 2.7 1.2 0.3 10.3
Steve Kerr 4 0 5.0 .750 1.000 .500 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.0 2.0
Tony Parker 6 6 35.3 .386 .429 .609 3.2 4.2 0.3 0.2 14.0
David Robinson 6 6 26.8 .611 .000 .700 7.3 0.7 1.2 1.8 10.8
Malik Rose 6 0 21.2 .442 .000 1.000 3.8 0.7 0.5 0.5 7.7
Steve Smith 1 0 1.0 .000 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kevin Willis 5 0 4.4 .333 .000 1.000 1.8 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.6
New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets statistics
Player GP GS MPG FG% 3FG% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Jason Collins 6 6 25.2 .333 .000 .800 4.7 1.0 0.7 0.5 3.7
Lucious Harris 6 0 20.8 .306 .333 .789 2.7 1.2 0.3 0.0 6.5
Richard Jefferson 6 6 38.2 .417 .000 .792 6.5 1.8 1.3 0.3 13.2
Anthony Johnson 5 0 5.6 .556 .500 .000 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.0 2.2
Jason Kidd 6 6 44.2 .364 .270 .833 6.2 7.8 1.2 0.2 19.7
Kerry Kittles 6 6 31.3 .377 .304 .800 4.2 1.3 1.8 0.5 10.8
Kenyon Martin 6 6 37.5 .343 .000 .667 10.0 2.2 1.7 2.3 14.7
Dikembe Mutombo 6 0 13.7 .500 .000 1.000 2.8 0.0 0.5 1.3 2.3
Rodney Rogers 6 0 12.3 .323 .375 .833 1.7 0.5 0.0 0.0 4.7
Brian Scalabrine 1 0 1.0 .000 .000 .000 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Tamar Slay 1 0 1.0 .000 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Aaron Williams 5 0 14.2 .423 .000 .750 4.2 0.8 0.2 1.4 5.6

Aftermath

The Nets had an inconsistent start to the 2003–04 NBA season, and with a 22–20 record early in the season they fired head coach Byron Scott. Lawrence Frank took over and led the Nets to another Atlantic Division title by winning 47 games, highlighted by a 13–0 start, the best start for a rookie head coach in sports history. Despite that, however, the Nets lost to the eventual NBA champion Detroit Pistons in seven games of the conference semifinals. As of the 2018–19 season, the 2003 Finals remain the Nets' most recent Finals appearance and is their last in New Jersey. The franchise moved to Brooklyn, New York prior to the 2012–13 season. The Nets have also not made the Conference Finals since 2003, having lost five times in the Semifinals, with the last being in 2021.

Jason Kidd remained with the Nets until he was traded in February 2008 to the team he was originally drafted to, the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd, along with teammate Dirk Nowitzki, led the Mavericks to the NBA title in 2011. Kenyon Martin was sent to the Denver Nuggets after the 2003–04 season, while Richard Jefferson eventually joined the Spurs in the 2009–10 season, after a brief one-year stint with the Milwaukee Bucks. He later won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

Despite the departures of Robinson, Jackson and Kerr, the Spurs still managed to win 57 games, aided by Tim Duncan's strong play. However, they were ousted in six games by the Los Angeles Lakers, highlighted by Derek Fisher's game winner with 0.4 seconds left in game 5 of the conference semifinals. In the years following Robinson's retirement, Duncan led the Spurs to three more NBA titles in 2005, 2007 and 2014.

Television coverage

The 2003 NBA Finals was the first to be aired on ABC, taking over after a 12-year run on NBC. As part of ESPN’s new media deal with the NBA, ABC’s telecasts were produced by ESPN. Until 2007, it was the lowest rated finals in NBA history.

This was also the only year that ABC broadcast both the NBA and the Stanley Cup Finals that involved teams playing in the same arena during each series. During ABC's broadcast of game 3, Brad Nessler stated that ABC was in a unique situation getting ready for both that game and game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the following night.[2][3] Gary Thorne, ESPN/ABC’s lead NHL voice, mentioned this the following night and thanked Nessler for promoting ABC's broadcast of game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.[4]

This was the only NBA Finals worked by Nessler and Tolbert, while this was Walton's last Finals assignment. All three were demoted from ABC's lead role after the Finals. Though Nessler remained the lead voice for ESPN's NBA broadcasts for another season, his position at ABC was relegated to a backup role after the network convinced Al Michaels of Monday Night Football fame to take over the lead position. Michaels was later joined by recently deposed Orlando Magic coach Doc Rivers on ABC's lead team.

See also

References

  1. ^ Lago, Joe (June 12, 2003). "Nets find right tempo to beat Spurs". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 27, 2018. But the Spurs, behind the leadership of backup point guard Speedy Claxton, silenced the sellout crowd of 19,280...
  2. ^ NBA on ABC: Game 3 of the 2003 NBA Finals (television). June 8, 2003.
  3. ^ Houston, William (June 11, 2003). "ABC scores big with seventh game after much promotion". The Globe and Mail. p. S2.
  4. ^ NHL on ABC: Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals (television). ABC Sports. June 9, 2003.