Remembering the Spurs' luckiest NBA Draft Lottery ever

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan / Craig Jones/GettyImages

On Tuesday night, San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson will be in Chicago to represent the club at the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery. After finishing the season 34-48, the Spurs currently hold the ninth-best lottery odds. They'll have a 20.3% chance of jumping into the top four picks in the draft and a 4.5% chance of securing the top overall pick.

It will be a night with major implications for San Antonio, but that's certainly nothing new. The Draft Lottery is always one of the most consequential nights of the entire NBA season. Entire franchises have their future changed by this event every year.

In 2008, the Bulls only had a 1.7% chance of landing the first pick and ended up getting it, selecting Derrick Rose. Four years later, the Charlotte Bobcats had an NBA-worst record of 7-59 in the regular season but found themselves with the #2 pick, missing out on Anthony Davis. It's safe to say that the Lottery has changed the course of league history on multiple occasions.

One such occasion was May 18, 1997, which also happened to be the single luckiest night in Spurs Draft Lottery history. The consensus #1 pick that year was of course Spurs Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan, and coming into Draft Lottery night, he appeared poised to become a Celtic, with Boston having the best odds of landing the #1 pick at 36%.

San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan / PAUL BUCK/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs' luck changes their franchise forever

But when the draft order was announced, the Celtics' two lottery picks landed at sixth and third, ruling them out of securing the coveted top pick. When the second pick went to the Philadelphia 76ers, Duncan knew he would be headed to the Alamo City. The Spurs won the lottery for just the second time in franchise history despite having only 21.4% odds of getting the first pick.

When you talk about nights that significantly altered NBA history, the 1997 Draft Lottery has to be mentioned as one of the biggest. If the ping pong balls had fallen how the numbers suggested they should have, Tim Duncan would have donned the green and white and become a top 10 player of all-time for the Celtics instead.

Rather than struggling for much of the late 90s and getting bounced in the playoffs the first half of the 2000s, Boston likely would have been in the mix for a championship year in and year out with Timmy and Paul Pierce running the show. For San Antonio, it would have been much harder for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to win titles without their dominant franchise star.

But as fate would have it, Duncan landed with the Spurs and the rest is history. The results of the 1997 Draft Lottery ultimately led to five NBA championships for San Antonio and forever changed the trajectory for basketball in the Alamo City. The city of San Antonio got to enjoy 19 years of watching Tim Duncan put together one of the most decorated careers in the rich history of the NBA while wearing Silver and Black.

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When the 2022 Draft Lottery begins Tuesday night, there's always the chance history could repeat itself. If San Antonio locks in a top four pick, Spurs fans could very well see their next franchise changing star drafted in June.