The wordmark of the NBA Finals
(San Antonio Spurs)
|Hall of Famers||Spurs|
David Robinson (2009)
Tim Duncan (2020)
Dikembe Mutombo (2015)
Jason Kidd (2018)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
|Eastern Finals||Nets defeated Pistons, 4–0|
|Western Finals||Spurs defeated Mavericks, 4–2|
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.
This was the first NBA Finals since 1995 to use the traditional script font in its logo; in the intervening years, a more contemporary all-gold logo had been used with the Larry O'Brien Trophy, as well as the year and the series' name encompassed by an oval on a black 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 retire 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
|San Antonio Spurs (Western Conference champion)||New Jersey Nets (Eastern Conference champion)|
1st seed in the West, best league record
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|
Starting lineupsNaismith Basketball Hall of Fame ‡
|San Antonio||Position||New Jersey|
|Tony Parker||PG||Jason Kidd‡|
|Stephen Jackson||SG||Kerry Kittles|
|Bruce Bowen||SF||Richard Jefferson|
|Tim Duncan‡||PF||Kenyon Martin|
|David Robinson‡||C||Jason Collins|
San Antonio Spurs
|2002–03 San Antonio Spurs roster|
New Jersey Nets
|2002–03 New Jersey Nets roster|
|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.
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.
June 4, 2003
|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
June 6, 2003
|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
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Referees: Dan Crawford, Bob Delaney, Bennett Salvatore
June 8, 2003
|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
June 11, 2003
|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
Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Referees: Mike Callahan, Bernie Fryer, Eddie Rush
June 13, 2003
|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
Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Referees: Dick Bavetta, Joe Crawford, Bennett Salvatore
June 15, 2003
|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
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Referees: Dan Crawford, Bob Delaney, Ron Garretson
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
- Despite a great performance, particularly a barrage of three-pointers in the clinching game 6 by Spurs swingman Stephen Jackson, the Spurs let Jackson leave as a free agent. Spurs veterans Steve Kerr, Danny Ferry, and most notably David Robinson retired after the 2003 Finals.
- Duncan and Robinson were named Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated for 2003.
- This series marked the first time that two former ABA teams pitted off against each other in the NBA Finals. Four years prior, though, the Spurs made it to the NBA Finals in the shortened 1998–99 NBA season and won the championship.
|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
- New Jersey Nets
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[update], 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.
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.
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, Tom Tolbert, and Bill Walton said 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. Gary Thorne, Bill Clement, and John Davidson mentioned this the following night and thanked Nessler, Tolbert, and Walton for promoting NHL on ABC's broadcast of game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
- 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...
- NBA on ABC: Game 3 of the 2003 NBA Finals (television). June 8, 2003.
- Houston, William (June 11, 2003). "ABC scores big with seventh game after much promotion". The Globe and Mail. p. S2.
- NHL on ABC: Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals (television). ABC Sports. June 9, 2003.