Spurs raise Mavs coach Johnson's jersey to rafters

Updated: December 23, 2007, 2:26 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs retired the No. 6 worn by former Spurs guard Avery Johnson on Saturday night.

[+] EnlargeAvery Johnson
AP Photo/Doug SehresAvery Johnson, now head coach of the Mavs, won a championship with the Spurs in 1999. He is also the Spurs' career assist leader.

The 5-foot-11 Johnson, now the coach of the Dallas Mavericks, spent parts of 10 seasons with the Spurs during his 16-year career and was part of the 1999 championship team. His 18-foot jumper with 47 seconds to play in Game 5 against the New York Knicks was the final basket of the game and led to a 78-77 Spurs win and their first title.

"I've accomplished a lot during my 16-year career and I think this is really going to cap it off," Johnson said before the ceremony.

Following a big-screen tribute to Johnson featuring his crucial jumper in the 1999 Finals, a gigantic No. 6 jersey was unveiled from behind a black cloth in the rafters of the AT&T Center.

Johnson compared his NBA experience to an apple and thanked all of San Antonio for "allowing me to taste it."

"Thank you for allowing me to do it," Johnson said. "And no matter where I go or what I do, No. 6, I'll still be hanging right there."

Johnson, nicknamed the "Little General" both for his height and competitive nature, was with his wife, Cassandra, and two children, Christianne and Avery Jr., for the ceremony Saturday.

He was also presented a large, framed No. 6 jersey.

Johnson's 10 years with the Spurs were played in three different stints; the longest was from 1994-2001. He went undrafted in 1988 and started his career in Seattle. Johnson, who retired in October 2004, also spent time with Denver, Houston, Golden State and Dallas. He won the league's sportsmanship award in 1998.

"I can't imagine anything sweeter and I can't imagine it happening to anybody who has given more to our organization, to the city and to me personally," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was a heck of a player, he's now a heck of a coach. ... No matter what happens, no matter where he is, he's a San Antonio Spur."

Johnson appeared in 1,054 regular-season games, averaging 8.4 points and 5.5 assists.

He has coached the Mavericks since March 2005 and won Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 season. He led the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006, where they lost to the Miami Heat.

The former point guard is the career leader in assists (4,474) for the Spurs and ranks fifth in games played (644) and steals (712) and eighth in points (6,484).

James Silas, George Gervin, Johnny Moore, David Robinson and Sean Elliott also have had their Spurs numbers retired. Robinson, Elliott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were among those who spoke at the ceremony.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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