There’s only one number that matters today for Texas Longhorn fans - 11. Less than 24 hours ago, the number 11 represented the seed the men’s Longhorn team was dealt for the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Today, the most loyal Longhorn fans must be thinking of a different number 11. The one worn by one of its most famous players, T.J. Ford. It's already been nine years since Ford steered the Longhorns to the Final Four in New Orleans (their first in 56 years), losing in the semifinals to the streaking Syracuse Orangemen who were lead by a freshman phenom. Does the name Carmelo Anthony ring a bell? The then 19-year-old Ford won in San Antonio on his way to the Final Four, putting on a 19 point 10 assist masterpiece at the Alamodome against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. It was the same year Ford monopolized college basketball’s most prized player awards - Naismith College Player of the Year, John Wooden Player of the Year, and also took home Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News’ top college basketball awards. By June of 2003, Ford found himself in New York City for the NBA Draft where he was taken with the 8th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. Keep in mind, the 2003 Draft also produced LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and of course, Matt Bonner. Fifty-five games into his rookie campaign, Ford suffered a contusion in his spinal cord after receiving a hard foul and landing on his tail bone. Ford missed the rest of his rookie year and his entire sophomore season. By the 2005 - 2006 season, Ford returned to the Bucks and played 72 games, only missing 10. Traded to Toronto, Ford played a career-high 75 games during the 2006 - 2007 season. But, spinal troubles came back to sideline Ford the following year after a flagrant foul at the hands of Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford. By the time Ford returned after his 3-month absence he had lost his standing as starting point guard. During the summer of 2008, Ford was traded again. This time to the Indiana Pacers where he posted a career high scoring average his first season. However, depth at point guard coupled with the injury bug kept Ford from receiving substantial minutes. And finally, Spurs fans know the rest. Entering this season, Ford was the Spurs single free agent pick up because we couldn’t amnesty the polarizing force that is Richard Jefferson. Seen as a low-cost gamble, Ford was slated to serve as the veteran point guard that would back up Tony Parker. But, like most of his career, Ford couldn’t catch a break from injuries. Last Wednesday night against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, Ford went down after getting elbowed in the back by Baron Davis. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t as bad as it originally looked when Ford lay motionless on the court. But, it was enough for the 28-year-old Ford to retire from the NBA. At today’s practice, Ford told reporters: "If it's anybody else, it's just a regular play, but because of me and my condition a simple elbow in the back has a different outcome than hitting someone else in the back." The Spurs are now left with a glaring hole in the point guard position and will look for a serviceable replacement. As for Ford, he took to Twitter this afternoon saying, “Thanks to all my fans who follow my career since a kid from all over the world. Basketball has been great to me & my family for 28yrs.”
It's official " I Retire from the NBA " as of today— TJ Ford (@tj_ford) March 12, 2012
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