The Hornets relocate from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana, resulting in a two-year absence for the Carolinas, until the birth of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004. They also play their first game at New Orleans Arena. As a result the NBA prohibits NBA games (except national games) from being broadcast in the Carolinas.
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, Georgia. 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, and the last time a rookie played (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 amount 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 Nets became the only team in NBA Finals history to wear a throwback uniform in a Finals game, wearing their 1976 home uniforms in Game 5.
A new instant replay rule is in effect to help officials in determining close calls. Bright red lights are installed on the backboards and scoring tables to make the shot easier to figure out.
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 scored 45 points against Seattle. Kobe made nine consecutive three-pointers and finished with 12 overall, a new NBA record for most "3's" in a game, later tied by Donyell Marshall.
Eight NBA teams (the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Washington Wizards) wore throwback uniforms to celebrate the first ever NBA Hardwood Classics Nights, commemorating either a player milestone, team anniversary or championship anniversary. The NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta featured NBA players wearing the 1987 All-Star uniforms as an extension.
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 passed away on August 5 from a head injury caused by a fall. The Lakers also sport a black patch in his honor.
The Toronto Raptors set a dubious NBA record by not dressing 12 players for any of their games.
Lenny Wilkens becomes the all time leader in losses surpassing Bill Fitch.
Reebok became the official outfitter for NBA teams, except those still under contract with Nike. Reebok would later become the endorser for all NBA teams in 2004 until its merger and subsequent transfer to Adidas in 2006.
New Jersey Nets
New York Knicks
New Orleans Hornets
San Antonio Spurs C
Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
C - NBA Champions
Points per game
Rebounds per game
Assists per game
New Jersey Nets
Steals per game
Blocks per game
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
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