Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets take on the San Antonio Spurs in a very special regular season game. It’s not special for who’s playing, but who’s not playing.
The Spurs are resting Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan, the three players that have defined them for the past decade. The Nets have played them 22 times in the last decade since the three joined forces, and the last time the Nets played the San Antonio Spurs without any of the three on the floor was January 22, 1997. The Brooklyn Game did not exist, because the internet barely existed, and our founder Sebastian Pruiti was maybe twelve years old.
Some facts about that game:
- The Nets ultimately won the game 103-95, behind 32 points from forward Kendall Gill. Entering the game, both teams had a 10-27 record. The Spurs eventually finished 20-62, the Nets 26-56. The Spurs won the draft lottery, which allowed them ultimately to select Duncan, while the Nets drafted seventh and took Tim Thomas, soon trading him for Keith Van Horn.
- The real loser of that night? The Denver Nuggets. Had the Nets lost that game, the Spurs would have finished the season 21-61, tied with the Nuggets for 12th in the Western Conference. That means half of San Antonio’s ping pong balls would have gone to Denver, thus giving Denver half a shot at Tim Duncan. Instead, the Nuggets fell to fifth, drafting… Tony Battie. There’s a 50% chance that Kendall Gill dropping 32 points in January of 1997 changed the entire course of NBA history.
- The New Jersey Nets started Khalid Reeves, Kerry Kittles, Gill, Toney Massenburg, and Jayson Williams. Be honest: you totally forgot about Khalid Reeves, didn’t you?
- The Spurs started Avery Johnson, Vernon Maxwell, Sean Elliot, Carl Herrera, and Will Perdue. Yes, that’s former Nets coach and current ESPN analyst Avery Johnson.
- “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton was the #1 song in the country.
- Coming off the bench for the Spurs: Vinny Del Negro, another former NBA head coach and current NBA TV analyst. That game happened so long ago that two players that played in it no longer have a coaching career.
- Monty Williams, the current head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, was also on the Spurs roster, making it possibly the most coach-laden roster ever.
- That day, Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State.
The Nets and Big Threeless Spurs face off at 8 P.M. tonight.