2002–03 NBA season
The 2002–03 NBA season was the 57th season of the National Basketball Association (NBA). 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. This season would also mark the first finals since the 1999–2000 NBA season that the Lakers did not appear in, and the Spurs' first finals appearance since then.
- The Hornets relocate from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana.
- In the Hornets first game in New Orleans retired Pete Maravich's jersey number (although they never played with the team and contributed to basketball in New Orleans) on opening night against their former tenants the Utah Jazz.
- 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 2003 NBA All-Star Game was held at the Philips Arena in Atlanta. The West won 155–145 in double-overtime, the longest All-Star game in NBA history. Minnesota's 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 number 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 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 threes in a game, later tied by Donyell Marshall and broken by Stephen Curry (with 13 threes) and Zach LaVine and later fellow Splash Brother, Klay Thompson (with 14 threes).
- 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 the NBA. Although fellow outfitter Nike still under their contracts. Reebok remained as the outfitter of the NBA until they merged with Adidas became the official outfitter in 2006.
- David Robinson announced his retirement. He would eventually go on to win the championship with the Spurs.
- The elimination of Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs marks the end of the 18-year Karl Malone–John Stockton tandem. Stockton would go on to retire, while Malone would play with the Lakers next season before retiring in 2004.
- The NBA has mandated installation of LED light strips on both the backboard and the scorer's table that illuminate when time expires, to assist with any potential review.
- The Dallas Mavericks started the season 14–0 one shy to tied the best start of the season set by the 1948–49 Washington Capitols and the 1993–94 Houston Rockets they started the season 15–0. The record was broken by the 2015–16 Golden State Warriors they started the season 24–0 during the 28–game winning–streak they won the last four games in the 2014–15 season.
- The Spurs and the Mavericks tied for the best record at 60–22. The Spurs won a tie–breaker for the best record due to better Conference records.
- The NBA introduces the Hardwood Classic nights for team and player milestones, team anniversary, and championship team anniversary which included the (Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Seattle SuperSonics, Washington Wizards, and other teams). In Game 5 of the 2003 Finals series, the Nets wore a throwback jersey from the 1976 team marked the only time in NBA Finals history wear a throwback jersey.
- z – Clinched home court advantage for the entire playoffs
- c – Clinched home court advantage for the conference playoffs
- y – Clinched division title
- x – Clinched playoff spot
Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home-court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular-season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.
|First Round||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||NBA Finals|
* Division winner
Bold Series winner
Italic Team with home-court advantage
- Most Valuable Player: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
- Rookie of the Year: Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
- Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
- Sixth Man of the Year: Bobby Jackson, Sacramento Kings
- Most Improved Player: Gilbert Arenas, Golden State Warriors
- Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
- Executive of the Year: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons
- Sportsmanship Award: Ray Allen, Seattle SuperSonics
Players of the month
The following players were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month.
Rookies of the month
The following players were named the Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month.
Coaches of the month
The following coaches were named the Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month.
The following is a list of notable players who played their first NBA game during the 2002–03 season, listed with their first team.
- a Entered the NBA as Nenê Hilário before changing his name in 2003.