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2002–03 NBA season

2002–03 NBA season
League National Basketball Association
Sport Basketball
Duration October 29, 2002 – April 16, 2003
April 19 – May 29, 2003 (Playoffs)
June 4 – 15, 2003 (Finals)
Number of teams 29
TV partner(s) ABC, TNT, ESPN, NBA TV
Draft
Top draft pick Yao Ming
Picked by Houston Rockets
Regular season
Top seed San Antonio Spurs
Season MVP Tim Duncan (San Antonio)
Top scorer Tracy McGrady (Orlando)
Playoffs
Eastern champions New Jersey Nets
  Eastern runners-up Detroit Pistons
Western champions San Antonio Spurs
  Western runners-up Dallas Mavericks
Finals
Champions San Antonio Spurs
  Runners-up New Jersey Nets
Finals MVP Tim Duncan (San Antonio)

The 2002–03 NBA season was the 57th season of the National Basketball Association. 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.

Notable occurrences

Coaching changes
Offseason
Team 2001-02 coach 2002-03 coach
Denver Nuggets Mike Evans Jeff Bzdelik
Golden State Warriors Brian Winters Eric Musselman
In-season
Team Outgoing coach Incoming coach
Atlanta Hawks Lon Kruger Terry Stotts
Cleveland Cavaliers John Lucas Keith Smart
Los Angeles Clippers Alvin Gentry Dennis Johnson
Memphis Grizzlies Sidney Lowe Hubie Brown
  • The Hornets relocate from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving Charlotte without an NBA team until the Bobcats (renamed 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.
  • 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 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 amount 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 "3's" in a game, later tied by Donyell Marshall.
  • 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
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