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Ball Don't Lie

Ex-Spurs point guard Johnny Moore’s nephew accused of stealing, pawning his championship rings

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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The Spurs' Johnny Moore drives on Magic Johnson of the Lakers in this May 1983 file photo. (AP)

The name "Johnny Moore" likely won't ring a bell with many of our younger readers, but during the 1980s, he was the steady triggerman running point for a fast-paced, high-powered San Antonio Spurs offense that featured Hall of Famers George Gervin and Artis Gilmore as well as perpetual scoring threat Mike Mitchell, a reliable point guard considered by some to be one of the best players never to make an All-Star team. The Spurs made the playoffs seven times in nine years with Moore at the helm, and while he was never a big-time scorer on a team with that sort of firepower, he was a gifted table-setter and an opportunistic defender, averaging better than nine assists and two steals per game for five straight seasons in the San Antonio backcourt.

He's one of 18 players in NBA history to notch 10 steals in a single game and he posted four career 20-assist games, including a then-postseason single-game record 20 dimes against the Denver Nuggets during the 1983 Western Conference semifinals, making him just one of seven players in NBA history with a 20-assist playoff game and putting him in the company of Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Doc Rivers, Tim Hardaway, Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo. This is a guy who came within one steal of a quadruple-double against the Golden State Warriors in January 1985; this is a guy who could play.

It's impossible to say how good Moore would've been if not for a strange bout with a form of meningitis known as "desert fever" that derailed his career just as he was entering his prime, but he's revered in Spurs lore; his number 00 is one of seven that the franchise has retired, and while he'd long since hung up his high-tops, when the Spurs finally broke through to win an NBA title, the organization included Moore in the celebration, giving him championship rings to commemorate their 1999 and 2003 victories.

Unfortunately, those rings (as well as a University of Texas ring owned by the late-'70s Longhorns star) were stolen from Moore's home back in July; fortunately, they've been recovered by San Antonio police. Time for another "unfortunately," though: The suspected thief is Moore's own nephew, 34-year-old Jason Witherspoon.

From Ana Ley of the San Antonio Express-News:

The three [rings] had a total estimated value of more than $33,000, police said. [...]

[Moore] told police he suspected [his] nephew [...] in the theft, saying he was behaving suspiciously after Moore let him stay at his home in the Park at Deerfield subdivision.

Witherspoon's father found pawn tickets for the stolen rings and faxed them to police July 27.

Police arrested Witherspoon on Tuesday and charged him with the theft. He posted $10,000 bail on Wednesday.

The two rings, pawned at different local shops, netted Witherspoon a total of $1,506, according to police — $606 for the '99 ring, and $900 for the '03 version. Miles Gold and Silver had already resold the '99 ring for more than that, getting $1,520 from "a smelter that planned to remove its stones and melt down the gold," according to the Express-News, but police recovered it in time to keep it intact.

It seems difficult to believe/moderately insane to think that the pawn shops wouldn't have seen the words "Spurs" and "world champions" on the giant golden rings and thought something might be amiss, but then, I suppose part of being willing to exchange money for whatever goods someone brings through your front door is developing a certain level of blindness to detail. And while it's easy to damn Witherspoon for allegedly violating his uncle's trust like this, when someone rips off family, it's not unreasonable to wonder if there aren't waaaaay bigger issues at play than just taking what's not yours.

As it stands, Moore now has his rings back. But I'm willing to bet he feels like he lost something a lot more valuable.

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