Spurs memory 25: Barkley turns out the lights at the Arena

Barkley’s game-winning shot turns the lights out at the Arena.

Date: Thursday, May 20, 1993
Place: HemisFair Arena, San Antonio
Score: Phoenix Suns 102, San Antonio Spurs 100.

HemisFair Arena had been the site for every Spurs home game in the history of the franchise until 1993, a place where fans mostly cheered victories and watched the exploits of Hall of Famers like George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and David Robinson over the years.

The last game in the history of the building, also called Convention Center Arena for a period, is remembered by most in Spurs Nation as a bittersweet memory – particularly because of the way it ended.

Charles Barkley slammed the doors shut of the venerable facility, hitting a 18-footer with 1.8 seconds left to boost Phoenix to a 102-100 Game 6 victory over the Spurs, ending the Western Conference semifinals series.

Barkley’s game-winning shot came over  Robinson and enabled the Suns to punctuate a wild comeback that saw them overcome a 10-point deficit in the final 11 minutes of the game. San Antonio hit only 4 of 18 from the field (22.2 percent) in the final quarter.

“I knew David wasn’t going to let me go to the basket so I just kept driving him closer and closer so I could shoot a free throw,” Barkley told the Express-News about his key shot after the game. “The shot felt good when it left my hand.”

The Spurs had one final chance. On a play intended for guard Dale Ellis, the ball ended up in Robinson’s hands. His weak effort was blocked by Oliver Miller to seal the victory.

Barkley, who won the NBA MVP award during that season, had a huge game to finish off the Spurs. “The Round Mound of Rebound” went for game-high totals of 28 points and 21 rebounds.

He was involved in an ugly scene with several Spurs fans as he left the court. After stopping for an interview with TNT, Barkley tore up a Spurs sign and tossed it in the air. Several fans answered Barkley’ action by throwing signs and insults at him.

But San Antonio coach John Lucas reacted at Barkley’s late shot with admiration.

“That’s Charles,” Lucas told the Associated Press. “We had what we wanted. We had our best defender in David on their best offensive player, and he just hit the shot.”

Earlier, Robinson had tied the score at 100 with 11 seconds left, setting the stage for Barkley’s game-winning shot.

The Spurs charged to a 58-56 halftime lead and led for most of the third quarter, pushing the advantage to 83-76 heading into the fourth quarter.

Robinson finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks, two steals to lead San Antonio. Sean Elliott chipped in with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

They said it, part I: “There were a lot of buildings a lot more elegant than this one. But I don’t think many have as much tradition.” Former Spurs guard Johnny Moore, to the Express-News about the history of the Arena.

They said it, part II: “I didn’t think he would take the shot from there. I started to go up to him and he stepped back and shot it,” Robinson, on Barkley’s game-winning shot.

They said it, part III: “I couldn’t understand why they were playing that slow, soft music. Then I realized it was ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ I almost wanted to cry.” Spurs season-ticket holder Carol Muir, to the Express-News after the Spurs’ final loss there.

They said it, part IV: “It’s disappointing because mentally I feel like playing some more basketball. I would have bet  my house that we would have won this game tonight,” Robinson, on the Spurs’ season-ending loss.

They said it, part V: “I almost don’t want to leave, thinking about all the basketball I’ve seen here. This is a great old place to watch basketball. I have nothing but fond memories. I won’t ever forget this place,” Spurs fan Henry Cavazos, after the Spurs’ final loss at the Arena.

They said it, part VI: “When we let them get the momentum, we never quite got it back,” Spurs guard Willie Anderson about the Spurs’ collapse.

They said it, part VII: “See, I told you guys he should have been coach of the year,” Barkley on Coach Paul Westphal designing the game-winning shot. Westphal finished fourth in voting.

They said it, part VIII: “A lot of fans are idiots, but most are great,” Barkley, to the Express-News after his incident as he left the court.

They said it, part IX: “Charles showed what a great player he is. He is the guy that is going to get the ball for us in a situation like that. Everyone in the gym knows that. But knowing it and stopping it are two different things,” Westphal, to the Express-News on Barkley’s game-winning shot.

They said it, part X: “It’s a tough tough way to end this season. We would have preferred to go back there and lose if we had to. We didn’t want to go out like this in front of our supporters. But we couldn’t get it done at the end,” Spurs guard Avery Johnson on the Spurs’ season-ending loss.

The upshot: The Spurs moved to the Alamodome the following season. After the final game at the Arena, several  fans remained in their seats for several minutes to remember their favorite memories of the building … When it ended the jerseys of two Spurs players – James Silas and Gervin – and seven Midwest Division championship banners hung from the ceiling … Iconic American television comedy show “Cheers” had its final broadcast on NBC on the same night of the Spurs’ final game at the Arena … The Suns eliminated Seattle in seven games in the Western Conference Finals before losing to Chicago  in six games in the NBA Finals … Even a pregame pep talk on the JumboTRON from actor George C. Scott in his role as George Patton and an Arena appearance from actor and teen heartthrob Luke Perry of “Beverly Hills 90210″ couldn’t spur San Antonio to the victory.

Previous Spurs most memorable moments:

No. 26: Silas becomes first Spur.

No. 27: Robinson makes history with .

No. 28: after crucial 1999 victory at Houston.

No. 29: on Halloween night.

No. 30: Torrid San Diego shooting

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