Popovich, Spurs pull class move to honor DeRozan milestone


It was perfect that it came on a midrange jumper. And it was perfect that it happened in San Antonio.

On Friday night, Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan became the 50th player in NBA history (54th if including ABA players) to eclipse 20,000 career points. He did it with his patented shot, and he did it in the arena he called home for three seasons between being traded by the Toronto Raptors in 2018 and signing with the Bulls in 2021.

And, upon achieving the milestone, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pulled off a class move by calling for timeout to allow the moment to be celebrated:

DeRozan and Popovich share a close bond from their shared seasons together, which each again made abundantly clear in the run-up to DeRozan's milestone night.

"I wanted to save it for Pop," DeRozan joked on Wednesday, after falling seven points short of 20,000 in a win over the Indiana Pacers. "Going back to a place that I spent some time, learned so much from, a place that embraced me, wasn't nothing but love. And it was definitely a learning curve for me in my career at a critical time in my career — and Pop really helped me a lot in my career. I think it'll be cool to be able to do it there."

Said Popovich on Friday: "(DeRozan is) a beautiful, wonderful human being. One of the best that I've ever coached. I still stay in touch with him. He's just a sweet man."

In fitting fashion, the two shared an embrace:

DeRozan sits 54th on the NBA/ABA's all-time scoring list, with Antawn Jamison (20,042) next to pass.

Nine active NBA players are in the 20,000-point club and lead DeRozan in career scoring: LeBron James (37,144), Carmelo Anthony (28,289), Kevin Durant (25,622), James Harden (23,584), Russell Westbrook (23,329), Chris Paul (20,975), LaMarcus Aldridge (20,558), Joe Johnson (20,407) and Stephen Curry (20,185).

"Just knowing the amount of players that played in this game for 75 years, it's crazy. Not too many people even get to that point," DeRozan said on Wednesday. "Some of my favorite players that I watched never even got to that point. To be there is definitely crazy."

The achievement is as much a testament to DeRozan's consistency and durability as it is to his preternatural shot-making skill. Since being drafted in 2009, DeRozan has appeared in more regular season games (962) than any player in the league and trails only James in total minutes logged.

And like many of the active player names listed above, DeRozan, 33, is far from finished.

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