The Immortalized Spurs is a series comprised of articles that give an in-depth look at the player behind the retired jersey hanging in the AT&T Center’s rafters. James Silas, Johnny Moore, George Gervin, and Avery Johnson have been previously covered.
Sean Elliott 1989-1993 & 1994-2001
Sean Elliott began his illustrious career playing high school ball in Tuscon, Arizona. He was a high school basketball standout and was a McDonald’s All-American in 1985. Elliott played his college ball at the University of Arizona where he was a two-time 1st Team All-American as he averaged an impressive 19.2ppg, 6.2rpg, and 3.4 apg over his four years. The San Antonio Spurs drafted Elliott with the third pick in the first round of the 1989 draft.
Elliott would go on to play a stellar eleven seasons with the Spurs. He was voted onto the All Star team twice, once in ’93 and again in ’96. Spurs fans will remember the ’96 All Star game took place in San Antonio and Sean treated us to a 13 point, 5 rebound, 2 assist performance amongst the best in the NBA. His best statistical season came in ’96 when he averaged 20ppg, 5.1rpg and 2.7 apg.
In 1993, the Spurs traded Sean Elliott for Dennis Rodman. This was frowned upon by many since Rodman stood for everything the Spurs, and Sean, were not. The following year the Spurs recognized Sean’s value and orchestrated a trade that would get him back into the Silver and Black. Elliott would go on to finish his career with the Spurs, retiring in 2001.
Sean Elliott was the key player in arguably the most memorable play in San Antonio Spurs’ history, the “Memorial Day Miracle.” At Project Spurs, we have discussed this at length so take a look here and here for more. As an NBA junkie, let me just say this ranks up there with the most amazing plays I have ever seen on a basketball court. It was simply incredible. The catch, the dribble to regain balance, the tip-toe to avoid the sideline, the unbelievable arch to clear 6’11” Rasheed Wallace’s outstretched arms, and the momentum shift everyone in the Alamodome experienced. It was breathtakingly classic.
A month after he helped the Spurs win their first championship, Sean Elliott announced he had been suffering from a kidney disease for years. Though he used every treatment available, his kidneys had continued to deteriorate and he needed a kidney transplant. In a circumstance that trumped the “Memorial Day Miracle,” his brother, Noel, offered to give Sean one of his kidneys. Amazingly, the surgery was a success and Sean would live on and continue to contribute to this world we all share.
Through hard-work and ceaseless determination, on March 13, 2001, Sean Elliott accomplished what many thought was impossible; he became the first player to return to the NBA after a kidney transplant. Elliott would compete that season and the one after, before retiring. To this day, Elliott continues to shed light on kidney diseases as well as participate in many charity events. Sean is currently our favorite color commentator and can be heard during most every Spurs game. Sean’s jersey was retired on March 6th, 2005, forever cementing his place as one of our Spurs heroes.