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2002–03 NBA season

2002–03 NBA season

The 2002–03 NBA season was the 57th season of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The season ended with the San Antonio Spurs beating the New Jersey Nets 4–2 in the 2003 NBA Finals. This would be Michael Jordan's last season in the NBA.

2002–03 NBA season
LeagueNational Basketball Association
DurationOctober 29, 2002 – April 16, 2003
April 19 – May 29, 2003 (Playoffs)
June 4 – 15, 2003 (Finals)
Number of teams29
TV partner(s)ABC, TNT, ESPN, NBA TV
Top draft pickYao Ming
Picked byHouston Rockets
Regular season
Top seedSan Antonio Spurs
Season MVPTim Duncan (San Antonio)
Top scorerTracy McGrady (Orlando)
Eastern championsNew Jersey Nets
  Eastern runners-upDetroit Pistons
Western championsSan Antonio Spurs
  Western runners-upDallas Mavericks
ChampionsSan Antonio Spurs
  Runners-upNew Jersey Nets
Finals MVPTim Duncan (San Antonio)

Notable occurrences

Coaching changes
Team2001–02 coach2002–03 coach
Denver NuggetsMike EvansJeff Bzdelik
Golden State WarriorsBrian WintersEric Musselman
TeamOutgoing coachIncoming coach
Atlanta HawksLon KrugerTerry Stotts
Cleveland CavaliersJohn LucasKeith Smart
Los Angeles ClippersAlvin GentryDennis Johnson
Memphis GrizzliesSidney LoweHubie Brown
  • The Hornets relocate from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving Charlotte without an NBA team until the Charlotte Bobcats (who would rename themselves the Hornets in 2014 following the New Orleans franchise's rebrand as the Pelicans the year before) were formed in 2004. They also play their first game at New Orleans Arena. As a result, the NBA prohibits NBA games (except national games) from being broadcast in the Carolinas for two seasons. Twelve years later, revised records between the two teams suggest that the Charlotte NBA franchise suspended operations following the original team's relocation to New Orleans, thereby treating the 2002–03 season as an establishing year for the New Orleans franchise.

  • In their New Orleans debut (Oct. 30, 2002) against the city's former occupants, the Utah Jazz, the Hornets posthumously retired Pete Maravich's No. 7, even though he never played for the team, but was honored for his basketball contributions to the city.

  • The San Antonio Spurs played their first game at the SBC Center (now the AT&T Center).

  • The Houston Rockets played their final game at the Compaq Center (formerly The Summit).

  • The 2003 NBA All-Star Game was held at the Philips Arena in Atlanta. The West won 155–145 in double-overtime, the longest All-Star game in NBA history. Minnesota's Kevin Garnett took the game's MVP honors. It was also the last time an Eastern Conference city hosted an All-Star Game (until 2012), and the last time a rookie played (until 2011) and started an All-Star game, with Yao Ming making his All-Star debut.

  • Michael Jordan announces his third and final retirement. He plays his last game on April 16, 2003 in Philadelphia.

  • The NBA on ABC begins (replacing NBA on NBC) again after a 29-year hiatus when the NBA signs new television deals with TNT and the consortium of ABC and ESPN. This agreement significantly decreased the number of games on network television, including the playoffs, in which very few games are shown on ABC, with the exception of the NBA Finals, which are shown entirely on ABC. Also, both conference finals are shown live on cable for the first time.

  • For the first time in NBA history, two former ABA teams contest each other in the NBA Finals, the New Jersey Nets versus the San Antonio Spurs. The Nets became the only team in NBA Finals history to wear a throwback uniform in a Finals game, wearing their 1976 home uniforms in Game 5.

  • A new instant replay rule is in effect to help officials in determining close calls. Bright red lights are installed on the backboards and scoring tables to make the shot easier to figure out.

  • The NBA changes the first-round format from a best-of-five-game series to a best-of-seven-game series for the 2003 NBA playoffs.

  • A new low in television ratings for the NBA Finals is reached, replacing the 1981 series as the least watched Finals (later surpassed by the 2007 Finals).

  • On January 7, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 45 points against the Seattle SuperSonics. Kobe made nine consecutive three-pointers and finished with 12 overall, a new NBA record for most threes in a game, later tied by Donyell Marshall and broken by Stephen Curry (with 13 threes) and later fellow Splash Brother, Klay Thompson (with 14 threes).

  • Eight NBA teams (the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Washington Wizards) wore throwback uniforms to celebrate the first-ever NBA Hardwood Classics Nights, commemorating either a player milestone, team anniversary or championship anniversary. The NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta featured NBA players wearing the 1987 All-Star uniforms as an extension.

  • The Los Angeles Lakers debuted their white and gold alternate jerseys in a loss against the Sacramento Kings on December 25, 2002, at Staples Center. The jerseys were designed as a tribute to long-time announcer Chick Hearn, who died on August 5 from a head injury caused by a fall. The Lakers also sport a black patch in his honor.

  • Lenny Wilkens becomes the all-time leader in losses, surpassing Bill Fitch.

  • Reebok became the official outfitter for NBA teams, except those still under contract with Nike. Reebok would later become the endorser for all NBA teams in 2004 until its merger and subsequent transfer to Adidas in 2006.

  • David Robinson announced his retirement. He would eventually go on to win the championship with the Spurs.

  • The elimination of Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs marks the end of the 18-year Karl Malone–John Stockton tandem. Stockton would go on to retire, while Malone would play with the Lakers next season before retiring in 2004.


By division

By conference


  • z – Clinched home court advantage for the entire playoffs

  • c – Clinched home court advantage for the conference playoffs

  • y – Clinched division title

  • x – Clinched playoff spot


Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home-court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular-season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.

First RoundConference SemifinalsConference FinalsNBA Finals
E5New Orleans2
Eastern Conference
E2New Jersey*4
E2New Jersey4
E2New Jersey4
E2New Jersey*2
W1San Antonio4
W1San Antonio4
W1San Antonio4
W5LA Lakers2
W5LA Lakers4
W1San Antonio4
Western Conference
  • Division winner Bold Series winner Italic Team with home-court advantage

Statistics leaders

Points per gameTracy McGradyOrlando Magic32.1
Rebounds per gameBen WallaceDetroit Pistons15.5
Assists per gameJason KiddNew Jersey Nets9.0
Steals per gameAllen IversonPhiladelphia 76ers2.74
Blocks per gameTheo RatliffAtlanta Hawks3.23
FG%Eddy CurryChicago Bulls.585
FT%Allan HoustonNew York Knicks.919
3FG%Bruce BowenSan Antonio Spurs.441


Yearly awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

  • Rookie of the Year: Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns

  • Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons

  • Sixth Man of the Year: Bobby Jackson, Sacramento Kings

  • Most Improved Player: Gilbert Arenas, Golden State Warriors

  • Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

  • Executive of the Year: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

  • Sportsmanship Award: Ray Allen, Seattle SuperSonics

Players of the month

The following players were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month.

MonthEastern ConferenceWestern Conference
October – NovemberTracy McGrady(Orlando Magic) (1/2)Michael Finley(Dallas Mavericks) (1/1)
Steve Nash(Dallas Mavericks) (1/1)
Dirk Nowitzki(Dallas Mavericks) (1/1)
DecemberJason Kidd(New Jersey Nets) (1/1)Chris Webber(Sacramento Kings) (1/1)
JanuaryJermaine O'Neal(Indiana Pacers) (1/1)Kobe Bryant(Los Angeles Lakers) (1/1)
FebruaryJamal Mashburn(New Orleans Hornets) (1/1)Kevin Garnett(Minnesota Timberwolves) (1/2)
MarchTracy McGrady(Orlando Magic) (2/2)Shaquille O'Neal(Los Angeles Lakers) (1/1)
AprilJamaal Magloire(New Orleans Hornets) (1/1)Kevin Garnett(Minnesota Timberwolves) (2/2)

Rookies of the month

The following players were named the Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month.

MonthEastern ConferenceWestern Conference
October – NovemberCaron Butler(Miami Heat) (1/4)Drew Gooden(Memphis Grizzlies) (1/1)
DecemberJay Williams(Chicago Bulls) (1/1)Yao Ming (Houston Rockets) (1/2)
JanuaryCaron Butler(Miami Heat) (2/4)Amar'e Stoudemire(Phoenix Suns) (1/2)
FebruaryCaron Butler(Miami Heat) (3/4)Yao Ming (Houston Rockets) (2/2)
MarchCaron Butler(Miami Heat) (4/4)Manu Ginóbili(San Antonio Spurs) (1/1)
AprilCarlos Boozer(Cleveland Cavaliers) (1/1)Amar'e Stoudemire(Phoenix Suns) (2/2)

Coaches of the month

The following coaches were named the Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month.

MonthEastern ConferenceWestern Conference
October – NovemberIsiah Thomas(Indiana Pacers) (1/1)Don Nelson(Dallas Mavericks) (1/1)
DecemberByron Scott(New Jersey Nets) (1/1)Frank Johnson(Phoenix Suns) (1/1)
JanuaryGeorge Karl(Milwaukee Bucks) (1/1)Gregg Popovich(San Antonio Spurs) (1/2)
FebruaryLarry Brown(Philadelphia 76ers) (1/2)Flip Saunders(Minnesota Timberwolves) (1/1)
MarchLarry Brown(Philadelphia 76ers) (2/2)Gregg Popovich(San Antonio Spurs) (2/2)
AprilPaul Silas(New Orleans Hornets) (1/1)Phil Jackson(Los Angeles Lakers) (1/1)


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Sep 24, 2019, 6:36 PM