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When he learned the Spurs might get Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich dropped his hamburger on the ground

Jun 5, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT

Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich

I attended the last NBA draft lottery in Secaucus, New Jersey, where the even was held 1994-2011. My memories are scattered, but a few stand out.

  • The Cavaliers – who had the largest contingent of representatives, including Bernie Kosar – won the No. 1 pick and celebrated with obnoxious and easily mockable enthusiasm.
  • Afterward, Henry Abbott gave me a ride to the train station (where I spent the night because my bus never arrived).
  • The food was great.

Most people attending – team representatives, league officials and media – spent a majority of the night in a big tent connected to the studio building, which was too small to accommodate all of us. In the tent, caterers served steak and other goodies, including chocolate-dipped pretzels.

When the lottery began, we were shuffled into the studio. It was cool to watch Adam Silver unveil the envelopes in person, but if you get past the spectacle, the tent was a better place to be.

So, I understand what Gregg Popovich was thinking during the 1997 Tim Duncan lottery.

Though the Spurs had a 21.60 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick – second only to the Celtics (27.51 percent) – Popovich says he didn’t get caught up in the Duncan-fueled excitement.

Popovich in Jan Hubbard’s The History of the Spurs, via Dan McCarney of Spurs Nation:

“We were in a big tent that was next to the studios and they called us to go sit in the stands. I didn’t go in because there was no way we had a chance to get the No. 1 pick. I just stayed in the tent where the food and the beer were. I’m the only guy in the tent. Everybody vacated.

“So I’m watching this little TV, eating a burger and drinking a beer and they get to the pick that was supposed to be us. But it was somebody else. I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked that I literally dropped my hamburger on the ground. It was unbelievable. One of us was going to get Duncan.

“All these people come rushing in the tent, just rushing at me. They were congratulating me like I had done something. I didn’t do anything but eat a burger and they were rushing me telling me what a good job I had done.”

In case Popovich remained in a state of shock after the lottery, the heartbroken Celtics were ready to pounce. Thankfully, Popovich’s good friend, Don Nelson, had his back. McCarney:

M.L. Carr, Boston director of corporate development: “As soon as (the lottery) was over, I get a call (from Pitino) telling me to ask Pop if he’ll trade the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 and No. 6 picks. Pop was very gracious. He said he thought he’d probably hold onto the pick. Can you imagine having to make that request? We’d have had to give them the right to all future picks and he still probably wouldn’t have done it.” (Boston Globe)

Don Nelson, Dallas coach: “If Pop trades him, I’ll go down there and take my shotgun to his house.”

Can you imagine Don Nelson knocking on your door with a shotgun? That’d make you drop your hamburger all over again.

PBT Extra video: Spurs have an edge over Heat in Finals

  1. saint1997 - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    Man I love all these stories about the Spurs before they became the dynasty they are – stuff about getting a shock no.1 pick and nobody wanting the coach. Makes you think it could be happening to a franchise right now

    • enigma2742 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:31 PM

      new york knicks maybe ?

  2. urallstupid - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    looking at the 97 draft, damn that draft list has so many non-impact players.

    • seattlesuperchronic - Jun 5, 2014 at 5:36 AM

      I just checked the Wikipedia for the 1997 draft and came across the 45th pick, his name? God Shammgod! Thank you internet, you just made my night.

      • genericcommenter - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Thank YOU for making me feel so old. I figured any basketball fan remembered that guy (if not for his NBA non-“career” then at least for his NCAA run).

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 25, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        Shammgod was from my block. He got the big head before he even went to Providence. He could have been another Rod Strickland. Wasn’t about talent, that’s for sure.

  3. brotherlove2012 - Jun 5, 2014 at 7:44 AM

    Famous for “The Shamgod” dribble move. At least he left a legacy behind. lol …

  4. tigerpork - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    Wow a hamburger story. PBT trying to make the most boring team in the nba…intersting.

    • macka4 - Jun 17, 2014 at 6:19 AM

      You can always get another hamburger.

  5. misremembered72 - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I thought this would be a terrible non story while we were waiting for the finals but I actually found it pretty funny and interesting.
    Good work PBT!

  6. omeimontis - Jun 5, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Phil Jackson outcoached Popovich. If Jackson were the Spur’s headcoach, Duncan would have more rings than he has fingers to wear them.

  7. eugenesaxe1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    5-second rule on the burger?

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