This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made them one of the most successful organizations of all time. As we look back on the Silver and Black, we recognize the top 50 players in franchise history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.
10- Johnny Moore
Johnny Moore played during possibly the strangest decade in Spurs history. His first five years with the Spurs had him teamed with George Gervin, whose long and storied career may have overshadowed Moore’s own greatness.
Soon after Gervin’s departure, the Spurs entered their dark period in which they tallied a record of 115–213 during four back-to-back losing seasons beginning in 1985 and running through the end of 1989 — which would be the last season before a naval officer named David Robinson donned the Silver and Black.
During Moore’s first season, his teammates were Gervin and James Silas. His final year was the rookie season of David Robinson and Sean Elliott. But Johnny Moore was more than just the bridge between eras of The Iceman and The Admiral. He was more than just the marquee player of a lackluster team. He was the glue that held Spurs Nation together.
Moore had to prove himself time and again while playing for 7 different Spurs head coaches. He was fired during his rookie season by Doug Moe, but returned to the Spurs in 1981, suited up for training camp, got signed, and then led the team in both assists and steals while coming off the bench.
He turned the corner in ’81-’82 by leading the league with his 762 assists in his first year as a starter.
Moore’s style represented the ideal of unselfishness that would become evolutionary in the dynamic of the Spurs dynasty. The flowering of the Spurs “beautiful game” was rooted in Moore’s style. His command of the floor while feeding the league’s most prolific scorer set the stage for the following phase of Spurs superstars. But Moore was more than a facilitator; he could also take over the game. With his inimitable dribble and swagger, Moore’s teaming with Alvin Robertson created one of the Spurs best-ever backcourts. Together, the “Twin Terrors” shredded defenses night after night.
With Moore as the starting point guard, the Spurs finished their 1982-1983 campaign 1st place in the Midwest Division. In their playoff series, the Nuggets targeted Gervin leaving Moore to take over. Johnny responded by scoring 39 points in one game and dishing out 20 assists in another. The Spurs beat the Nuggets in the series 4-1. In the next round against the Lakers, at home with a chance to tie the series at 2-all, Moore had the following gem.
Unfortunately, Moore’s career took an abrupt turn.
In December 1985, he contracted a rare form of meningitis called coccidioidomycosis, or Desert Fever, which produces headaches and nausea. After surgery, which was pretty invasive at that time, Moore lost 30 pounds and missed the rest of the season.
The following season, Moore exceeded expectations and played 55 games, but he did not return to his previous form. Moore played 4 games the next season and on November 19, 1987, the Spurs waived him.
After spending a year playing in Mexico, Moore re-joined the Spurs for the 1989-1990 season. Along with David Robinson, Sean Elliott, and Terry Cummings, Moore contributed to the second greatest single season turnaround in NBA history. At the end of the season, Moore retired.
During his NBA career, Moore scored 4,890 career points, collected 1,548 rebounds, and dished out 3,865 assists. He was the NBA assist leader in 1982. He is one of 19 players in NBA history to record 10 or more steals in a game. At the time of his retirement, he was the Spurs’ all-time assists leader.
Johnny Moore’s career, both on and off the court, made him an invaluable member of the Spurs. Moore’s character during the 80s carried the franchise through the doldrums and toward heights from which we have yet to see a decline. His role in Spurs history is cemented.
Next up: Another legend from the earliest days helps usher the Spurs during their transformation from ABA to NBA.
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