The mitotic spindle ensures the faithful segregation of chromosomes. Here we combine the first large-scale serial electron tomography of whole mitotic spindles in early C. elegans embryos with live-cell imaging to reconstruct all microtubules in 3D and identify their plus- and minus-ends. We classify them as kinetochore (KMTs), spindle (SMTs) or astral microtubules (AMTs) according to their positions, and quantify distinct properties of each class. While our light microscopy and mutant studies show that microtubules are nucleated from the centrosomes, we find only a few KMTs directly connected to the centrosomes. Indeed, by quantitatively analysing several models of microtubule growth, we conclude that minus-ends of KMTs have selectively detached and depolymerized from the centrosome. In toto, our results show that the connection between centrosomes and chromosomes is mediated by an anchoring into the entire spindle network and that any direct connections through KMTs are few and likely very transient.