Sean Michael Elliott (born February 2, 1968) is an American former professional basketball player who starred at small forward in both the college and professional ranks. He attended the University of Arizona, where he had a standout career as a two-time All-American, winner of the 1989 John R. Wooden Award, the 1989 Adolph Rupp Trophy, the 1989 NABC Player of the Year, 1989 AP Player of the Year, and two time Pac-12 Player of the Year (in 1988–1989).

Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott - Arizona Wildcats.jpg
Elliott, circa 1987
Personal information
Born (1968-02-02) February 2, 1968 (age 52)
Tucson, Arizona
Listed height6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight220 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High schoolCholla (Tucson, Arizona)
CollegeArizona (1985–1989)
NBA draft1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall
Selected by the San Antonio Spurs
Playing career1989–2001
PositionSmall forward
Career history
19891993San Antonio Spurs
1993–1994Detroit Pistons
19942001San Antonio Spurs
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points10,544 (14.2 ppg)
Rebounds3,204 (4.3 rpg)
Assists1,897 (2.6 apg)
Stats at
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2018

He was the third pick of the 1989 NBA draft, was named to the 1990 NBA All-Rookie Second Team, was a two-time NBA All-Star, and earned an NBA championship in 1999.

His #32 is retired by both the University of Arizona and the San Antonio Spurs.

Early lifeEdit

Elliott was born in Tucson, Arizona as the youngest of three boys. He attended the G.A.T.E. (Gifted and Talented Education) program at Tolson Elementary School there, then played basketball at Cholla High School (now Cholla High Magnet School) on the city's west side.


After graduating in 1985, he remained in Tucson to play college basketball at the University of Arizona. Under the tutelage of Lute Olson, Elliott was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. He was selected as a consensus all-American during his junior and senior years, and led the Wildcats to the Final Four in his junior year (1988). Elliott broke Lew Alcindor's (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) all time Pac-10 career scoring record. After an exceptional senior season, Elliott won the Wooden Award. He is still the University of Arizona's all-time leading scorer.

He played for the US national team in the 1986 FIBA World Championship, winning the gold medal.[1]

NCAA career statisticsEdit

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
1985–86 Arizona 32 ... 33.7 .486 ... .749 5.3 2.2 0.7 0.3 15.6
1986–87 Arizona 30 ... 34.9 .510 .371 .770 6.0 3.7 0.7 0.2 19.3
1987–88 Arizona 38 ... 32.9 .570 .471 .793 5.8 3.6 0.7 0.4 19.6
1988–89 Arizona 33 ... 34.1 .480 .504 .841 7.2 4.1 1.0 0.3 22.3
Career[2] ... 133 ... 33.8 .512 .456 .793 6.1 3.4 0.8 0.3 19.2

NBA careerEdit

San Antonio Spurs: First RunEdit

Elliott was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs as the third pick in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft under Coach Larry Brown. The 1989–1990 season was also the first for Elliott's teammate David Robinson, who played as the team's superstar. Elliot started in 69 of 81 games for the season, averaging 10 points a game, and the Spurs made the playoffs where they swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round before falling to the eventual Western Conference Champion Portland Trail Blazers in 7 games. Elliott increased his scoring average to 12.7 during the postseason.

In the following season, Elliott started in all 82 games, increasing his scoring to 15.9 points a game, and the Spurs led by Robinson won 55 games, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors in four games. Elliott once again increased his scoring output in the playoffs, and the Spurs looked forward to improving. The 1991–1992 season was be a tumultuous one for the team, with Brown stepping down as coach after a 21–17 start, replaced by Bob Bass. The Spurs still managed to win 47 games with Elliott starting in all 82 games and averaging 16.3 points, but San Antonio were swept in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. Like in his first two years, Elliott increased his scoring in the playoffs to 19.7 points a game for the three game series.

Coaching changes once again destabilized the Spurs' season, before John Lucas II took over the team, leading them to 55 wins on a 39–22 record after the team opened the season with a record of 10–11. Elliott played in 70 games, and once again placed second in scoring on the team to Robinson with 17.2 points a game, including a career-high 41 points against the Dallas Mavericks on December 18, 1992. He was named to play in the 1993 NBA All-Star Game along with Robinson. In the playoffs, San Antonio defeated Portland 3 games to 1, before facing the number one seeded Suns in the conference semifinal. After losing the first two games in Phoenix, the Spurs responded with consecutive games at home, as Elliott scored 17 points in game 3 and 19 points in game 4. The Suns, led by superstar Charles Barkley managed to wrap up the series in the next two games. Elliot averaged 15.8 points per game in the playoffs.

Detroit Pistons: 1993–1994Edit

Elliott spent the 1993–94 season with the Detroit Pistons after being traded for Dennis Rodman in a multi-player deal. The Pistons had previously been a championship-contending team, and were still led by veterans such as Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, but struggled with injuries throughout the season. After Elliott struggled with the Pistons, the Pistons attempted to trade him to the defending champion Houston Rockets in February 1994 in exchange for Robert Horry, Matt Bullard, and two second-round draft choices; however, the trade fell through when Elliott failed his physical.[3][4][5] After the trade was voided, Elliott held a press conference and announced that he had a kidney problem.[6] Elliott remained in Detroit for the rest of the season and started in a total 73 games, averaging 12.1 points a game. Following the end of the season, he was traded back to the Spurs for the draft rights of Bill Curley.

Back in San AntonioEdit

In the 1994–1995 season, the Spurs—now coached by Bob Hill—won 62 games led by Elliott and Robinson, who won that year's NBA Most Valuable Player Award. The Spurs clinched the top seed in the western conference, and swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round before facing the young Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals. The Lakers pushed San Antonio to a 6th game in Los Angeles, where the Spurs won. Elliott scored 26 points, his high for the playoffs, in the series-clinching game. The Spurs had reached the conference finals, where they faced Houston. Despite having home court advantage, the Spurs lost the first two games at home, and won two games before falling to the more experienced Rockets in 6 games. Elliott averaged 17.3 points a game in the playoffs.

The 1995–1996 season was a personal best for Elliott, as he averaged 20 points a game, a career high, in 77 games. Elliott also made a career-high 161 three-pointers on the season, and played in the 1996 NBA All-Star Game, scoring 13 points in 22 minutes. The Spurs once again came up short in the playoffs, defeating Phoenix in the first round before losing to the Utah Jazz in 6 games, with Elliott's scoring averaging falling to 15.5 points a game. The following season proved a disaster for the Spurs, as Robinson played in only 6 games due to a season-ending injury, while Elliott also suffered injuries that limited him to 39 games. The team was taken over by new coach Gregg Popovich, and their lottery status in the 1996–1997 season led to the drafting of Tim Duncan in the NBA draft following the season. Injuries limited Elliott again to just 36 games in the 1997–1998 season, but the Spurs improved to 56 wins led by Duncan and Robinson, before losing to Utah in the conference semifinals.

NBA championship, kidney transplant, and comeback: 1998–2001Edit

The 1998–1999 season was shortened to 50 games as a result of a league lockout, but the Spurs won 37 of the games for the west's best record led by Duncan and Robinson, with Elliott starting in all 50 games with an average of 11.2 points a game. The Spurs entered the playoffs with a dominating defensive attack bolstered by the big man duo of Duncan and Robinson, and they first defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 3-1 in the first round. San Antonio won a 4-game sweep of the much improved Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Next up were the Portland Trail Blazers, another resurgent squad, in the conference finals. The Spurs won game 1 on their home floor, and in game 2 the Trail Blazers held a 2-point lead with 9 seconds left to play in regulation. Elliott received a pass nearly stolen by Blazer Stacey Augmon in the corner, before Elliott caught the ball within an inch of the sideline (narrowly avoiding going out of bounds). He managed to stay on his tiptoes rather than planting his feet, before releasing a 21-foot three-point attempt just over the outstretched arms of 6 foot 11 forward Rasheed Wallace. The shot went in, giving the Spurs a 1-point lead and the eventual victory. The shot was later named "Memorial Day Miracle" because of its improbability and the date on which it was made. Elliott finished the game with 22 points. and shifted the momentum of the series to the Spurs, who swept Portland. The Spurs had finally made the NBA Finals, facing the surprising New York Knicks, who had managed to make the Finals despite being the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference but who were missing star center Patrick Ewing. San Antonio dominated the Knicks in the first two games, and while the Knicks managed to win game 3, the Spurs combination of Duncan, Robinson and effective play by veterans such as Elliott (14 points in game 4), Avery Johnson and Jaren Jackson proved too much for the Knicks. The Spurs won game 5 in Madison Square Garden to wrap up the series and win their first NBA Championship. Elliott averaged 11.9 points in 17 games in the playoffs while shooting 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Shortly after the championship run, Elliott announced that he had a kidney disease known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, that his kidney function was worsening, and that he would require a transplant as soon as a matching donor became available.[7] Elliott also disclosed that he had been aware of his kidney ailment since 1993.[8] He underwent surgery on August 16 of that year, receiving a kidney from his older brother, Noel.

On March 13, 2000, in a game against the Atlanta Hawks, Elliott became the first player to return to the NBA after a kidney transplant. He played in only 19 games in the 2000 season, and San Antonio failed to repeat as champions. Elliott started in 34 of 52 games in the 2000–2001 season; the Spurs held the best record in the league, but lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.


Elliott announced his retirement in 2001. He finished his career averaging 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Elliott is the fifth all-time franchise leader in three-point field goals made (563) and fourth for three-point attempts (1,485).

NBA career statisticsEdit

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes season in which Elliott won an NBA Championship

Regular seasonEdit

1989–90 San Antonio 81 69 25.1 .481 .111 .866 3.7 1.9 0.6 0.2 10.0
1990–91 San Antonio 82 82 37.1 .490 .313 .808 5.6 2.9 0.8 0.4 15.9
1991–92 San Antonio 82 82 38.0 .494 .305 .861 5.4 2.6 1.0 0.4 16.3
1992–93 San Antonio 70 70 37.2 .491 .356 .798 4.6 3.8 1.0 0.4 17.2
1993–94 Detroit 73 73 33.0 .455 .299 .803 3.6 2.7 0.7 0.4 12.1
1994–95 San Antonio 81 81 35.3 .468 .408 .807 3.5 2.5 1.0 0.5 18.1
1995–96 San Antonio 77 77 37.7 .466 .411 .771 5.1 2.7 0.9 0.4 20.0
1996–97 San Antonio 39 39 35.7 .422 .333 .755 4.9 3.2 0.6 0.6 14.9
1997–98 San Antonio 36 36 28.1 .403 .378 .718 3.4 1.7 0.7 0.4 9.3
1998–99 San Antonio 50 50 30.2 .410 .328 .757 4.3 2.3 0.5 0.3 11.2
1999–2000 San Antonio 19 19 20.6 .358 .351 .781 2.5 1.5 0.6 0.1 6.0
2000–01 San Antonio 52 34 23.6 .434 .426 .714 3.3 1.6 0.4 0.5 7.9
Career 742 712 33.0 .465 .375 .800 4.3 2.6 0.8 0.4 14.2
All-Star 2 0 18.5 .333 .333 .800 3.5 1.0 0.0 0.0 9.0


1990 San Antonio 10 10 29.1 .552 .000 .724 4.1 1.8 0.9 0.6 12.7
1991 San Antonio 4 4 33.0 .425 .000 .781 5.5 4.0 1.0 0.3 14.8
1992 San Antonio 3 3 45.7 .475 .625 .889 4.3 2.7 1.0 1.3 19.7
1993 San Antonio 10 10 38.1 .472 .214 .925 4.8 3.6 0.8 0.3 15.8
1995 San Antonio 15 15 38.3 .435 .364 .776 4.8 2.7 0.7 0.5 17.3
1996 San Antonio 10 10 38.9 .402 .294 .797 3.9 2.5 1.1 0.4 15.5
1999 San Antonio 17 17 33.8 .444 .400 .763 3.4 2.6 0.5 0.2 11.9
2000 San Antonio 4 4 29.8 .375 .385 .625 5.5 1.3 0.0 0.5 10.0
2001 San Antonio 12 0 19.9 .373 .364 1.000 2.2 1.2 0.4 0.5 4.8
Career 85 73 33.4 .445 .356 .801 4.0 2.4 0.7 0.4 13.2


After retiring, Elliott became a basketball analyst for The NBA on NBC and, during the 2003–2004 season, for ABC Sports and ESPN. He left that position for the 2004–2005 season and became the color commentator for the Spurs' local broadcasting. On January 5, 2013, he joined Fox Sports 1, calling his first college basketball game with the network.[9]

On March 6, 2005, his #32 was retired by the San Antonio Spurs and was hung in the rafters of the AT&T Center. His #32 is also retired by the University of Arizona.


  1. ^ 1986 USA Basketball Archived November 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Sean Elliott,, accessed March 20, 2010.
  3. ^ PRO BASKETBALL; Kidney Failure Imperils Career of Spurs' Elliott
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ [4]
  9. ^ FOX Sports: NBA [@HoopsOnFOX] (January 5, 2014). "REMINDER: Sean Elliott has joined the FOX College Hoops team & will be calling His 1st game will NEXT #USC vs #UCLA 3 pm ET on @FOXSports1!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External linksEdit