October 29, 2003. The NBA defending champion San Antonio Spurs are kicking off the 2003-04 season, hoping to start a run at a possible repeat. Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, leads the way. He is flanked by Manu Ginobili, one of the best foreign players ever, and Big Shot Robert Horry.
The Denver Nuggets have come into the season with high expectations. Their terrible 02-03 season landed them a high draft pick and with it they chose future superstar Carmelo Anthony. With Marcus Camby, Nene and Professor Andre Miller to guide Carmelo, the Nuggets are primed to make a run for the playoffs.
This is truly a great way to tip off, with established dominance against promising excitement. The game starts off a little slow. Carmelo misses his first NBA shot, at the rim, and loses the ball out of bounds. At the other end, Tim Duncan makes a bad pass and turns the ball over. This is effective foreshadowing.
Four and half minutes pass – and the score is 3-2. The Nuggets are 1-11 in field goals. The Spurs are only slightly better at 1-9. The Big Fundamental already has three turnovers.
Then, suddenly, sparks of life! The teams together make eight of their next thirteen shots! The rust has fallen away! After their long slumber, the basketball behemoths are ready to play!
Or…possibly…not. The second quarter begins with eight straight missed shots. The teams trade turnovers and bricks and stumble into halftime at 39-36, Denver.
Denver comes out and puts the pressure on in the 3rd quarter, pushing the lead to ten points before San Antonio manages to score. The Spurs make four field goals in the third quarter. We make it halfway through the 4th quarter before either team manages to pass 70 points.
Spectators grow old and pass away in their seats. Old growth forests take over the concession areas. Civilizations rise and fall, eons pass away and still, still the shots will not fall.
Finally, three seconds remain and Tim Duncan puts in one final, meaningless shot to bring the score to 80-72, Denver on top. The dust clears to reveal the teams combining to shoot just under 28% from the field, the worst combined shooting performance since the 1983-84 season.
Carmelo goes 4-15 in his debut. Voshon Lenard adds 3-14, and Cherry Picker favorite Earl Boykins shoots 5-13. For the Spurs, Tim Duncan ends at 7-22, Ginobili shoots 4-12, and Rasho Nesterovic goes a magnificent 1-11.
Only Ron Mercer manages to clear 50% shooting, dropping in 7 of 13 shots for 14 points. He alone walks out of the arena with his head still held high. David Stern convenes a meeting, and against his better judgement, decides to let San Antonio keep their championship trophy.