Apr 30, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) smiles before game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Few teams have the type of history the San Antonio Spurs have. From their humble beginning in the ABA, to their championship contending teams of the modern decade, the Spurs have a history that precious few teams can match.
That history is possible thanks to the plethora of great players that have passed through San Antonio over the years, and as we continue our breakdown of the top five position players in Spurs history, we now move on to the greatest small forwards to wear the silver and black.
Much like the demeanor of the Spurs, their small forwards have always been forgotten about. No matter how good they were, they never really get acknowledged for their success and contribution to the game. Spurs players may like to operate like that, but it’s time to shed some light on these deserving players.
Next: N0. 5 Ranked Small Forward In Spurs History
5. Bruce Bowen: 2001-2009
Bruce Bowen was part of three NBA championships with the Spurs. His role as a defensive specialist was major in guarding many of the prime time players on the opposing NBA Finals teams, which included the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bowen was that type of player that became a huge pain in the side for opposing players. His defensive tactics, if you will, got into the head of players and many have confronted referees about his play. The jabbing, pushing, in your face defense made Bowen a defensive specialist for San Antonio over his career.
Over his eight year career with San Antonio, Bowen averaged 6.4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assists and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Next: No. 4 Ranked Small Forward In Spurs History
4. Larry Kenon: 1975-1980 The Spurs owe much of their early franchise success to Larry Kenon and his efforts. In five seasons, Kenon amassed 8,248 points and 4,114 rebounds. He is currently ninth in points and fourth in rebounds for the franchise.
Kenon was Another player who helped the Spurs make a smooth transition from the ABA to the NBA, Kenon was the left hook to George Gervin’s right cross in the Spurs’ 1-2 scoring punch during their first four NBA seasons.
He is one of five players in Spurs history to score more than 50 points in a game, with 51 against the Pistons on March 30, 1980, one of the last games he would play for the Spurs.
The 6-fooot-9 forward known as “Special K” also was a workhorse rebounder. He ranks fifth on the Spurs’ all-time rebound list (3,217), and led the team in rebounding each of the four NBA seasons he played in San Antonio. He averaged 11.3 rebounds in 1976-77, which ranked 10th in the league.
Next: No. 3 Ranked Small Forwards In Spurs History
3. Sean Elliot: 1989-1993 ; 1994-2001 Sean Elliott spent 11 of his 12-year career in San Antonio. He was an integral part of the Spurs’ first NBA championship back in 1999. His career average of 14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game with the Spurs, coupled with his ranking of fifth in minutes played for the franchise, has earned him the utmost respect as one of the best players in team history.
A month after the Spurs won the title in 1999 – he announced that he would need to undergo a kidney transplant. On August 16, Elliott underwent a successful kidney transplant at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio, receiving his new kidney from his older brother Noel.
After spending months working out on his own Elliott made NBA history on March 14 when he took the court against the Atlanta Hawks, becoming the first player in league history to return to action following a major organ transplant. Elliott appeared in 19 games during the 1999-2000 campaign and saw action in 52 games in 2000-01 before retiring in the summer of 2001.
Many to this day remember the shot heard around the world. “Memorial Day Miracle.” Still incredible how Elliot was able to keep his heels off the ground when he caught the ball in the corner for a huge basket for San Antonio.
Elliott’s No. 32 is the fifth number retired in the Spurs 32-year history.
Next: No. 2 Ranked Small Forward In Spurs History
2. Kawhi Leonard: 2011-Present Now before I start getting hate mail for ranking Kawhi Leonard at No. 2, you will understand after you see who came in at No. 1. There is no denying that Leonard is on the rise and has taken the torch from Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as San Antonio being his team.
The quiet, unassuming small forward from San Diego State University has come out of nowhere and earned his spot on this list. The fact that he is the only person on this list with a NBA Finals MVP award has to speak volumes of Leonard’s potential. No one could have predicted the impact he would bring to the Spurs and his championship experience will only help him in the future.
He has proven that hard word does pay off. During the 2014-15 season, Leonard was not a threat from the perimeter, the 2015-16 season, it changed. He was ranked in the top five in the NBA in 3-point percentage. That speaks volumes of his work ethic. Always wanting to get better.
He is on his way to the top of not only being one of the best players in San Antonio history but in the NBA as well.
Next: No. 1 Ranked Small Forward In Spurs History
1. George Gervin: 1973-85
De’ ja’ vu’? This is the second time that George Gervin has been ranked in the our ‘Top 5’ position rankings. That was the type of player that Gervin was. He could be placed anywhere in the lineup and make an impact.
Before David Robinson and Tim Duncan, there was “The Iceman,” George Gervin. Gervin came to San Antonio when the Spurs were part of the ABA, and he stayed with the team when they made the transition to the NBA.
Gervin was an offensive machine, and he became the face of a Spurs team that was known for their run-and-gun offense. No 44’s jersey was the first to be retired by the Spurs, and he is still loved by many Spurs fans, young and old.
It was because of the strong play of both Gervin and Julius Erving that the NBA eventually merged with the ABA, which helped take the league to new places. He is not only regarded as one of the best scorers of all time, but also one of the best to ever play the game.
Combining his play in the ABA and NBA, Gervin spent 12 seasons with San Antonio racking up eye-popping numbers. Over the 12 seasons, he averaged 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the field.