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Spurs 50 for 50, Number 5- Tony Parker

From France, a certain je ne sans quoi is added to the Silver and Black

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and their consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made the franchise one of the most successful of all time. As we look back on the Silver & Black, we recognize the top 50 players in Spurs history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.

Number 5- Tony Parker

[Hint: The French phrases in this article are linked to musical cues which provide clues as to their meanings.]

Anthony Parker drives

The Spurs were interested in a young French prospect in 2001, and brought him to San Antonio for a meeting, where Pop had him play against Spurs scout and former Longhorn Lance Blanks. Blanks overwhelmed the skinny kid with his physical defense, and Pop sent him home after a short workout, unimpressed. After the failed audition, Pop watched some more film of the kid and decided to give him a second chance, which went well enough for the Spurs to use their 28th pick in the 2001 draft to take William Anthony Parker, Jr. Tony Parker’s ability to rise to the occasion and continuously elevate and add to his game became a central feature of his career with the Silver and Black, making him not just a key contributor, but a driving force in the four championships he won in San Antonio.

Coming from a family of elite athletes, Tony Parker’s skill was apparent from a young age, and he joined INSEP where he trained and became friends with many elite French athletes, including future teammate Boris Diaw. He turned pro and joined French Basket Racing, playing well enough to be invited to the Nike Hoop Summit in 2000, where he caught the attention of US colleges with his all-around game, but decided to remain in France. He declared himself eligible for the 2001 NBA draft, but not many teams scouted foreign players at that time, and the San Antonio’s pick in the 28th spot came as a surprise to most observers, since the team hadn’t talked much in public about the young prospect before using their first round pick on him.

Parker made an immediate impact on the team with his je ne sais quoi and elite speed when he joined the team in the 2001-2002 season, playing well enough to be the Sporting News rookie of the year. The Silver and Black returned to the NBA finals in his second year in 2003, facing the New Jersey Nets. The finals exposed the limitations in Parker’s game, and his lack of outside shooting and difficulties with Jason Kidd’s length and physical defense forced an adjustment Coach Pop to give more minutes to Speedy Claxton and Steve Kerr in key moments to close out the series.

Tony added more to his game in the next few seasons, instead of always driving to the basket and somehow getting up crazy shots in confined spaces that somehow got past the outreached arms of the defender, he also developed a killer teardrop, which meant the defender couldn’t just loiter by the rim to defend. With more weapons at his disposal, it was ca plane pour moi for the Wee Frenchman on the court as he tore through the league and the Silver and Black won their third Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2005.

The 2006 season was a disappointment as the Spurs were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. The 2007 season was having Spurs fans saying Je T’aime to Mr. Parker as the team ran through the playoffs to their 4th championship, and Parker’s third, with Tony earning the Finals MVP award with a sweep of LeBron James’ Cavaliers.

Tony kept working on his game and improved his three point shooting, which made him dangerous from anywhere on the court. He was never an elite shooter, but he was good enough to keep defenders guessing whether he’d toss up a moonball or drive right past them to the basket. It was a matter of Balance Toi for the defenders, as Tony would always keep them guessing. The aging core of the Spurs didn’t make it back to the finals until 2013, losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Miami Heat, but redemption quickly followed on the heels of tribulation as the Spurs won their fifth title in 2014, using their superior teamwork and passing, along with key contributions from a young Kawhi Leonard, to defeat LeBron’s Heat in their finals rematch against San Antonio.

Tony played three more years in San Antonio, playing a minor role in the Kawhi Leonard drama as he called a player’s meeting to address the question of the talented small forward’s absence from the team. His last year in the league was with the Charlotte Hornets, and he retired after the 2018-2019 season.

After finishing up his playing career, Parker has continued to be active in the basketball world, splitting time between San Antonio and his native France. He has been the president of ASVEL Basket in the French Pro A League since 2014, and has been associated with several players associated with the Spurs, including 2013 first round pick Livio Jean-Charles, whose career was cut short by a brutal knee injury. Last year, Victor Wembanyana was on the ASVEL roster, and the Spurs might have a 14% chance to select him next summer if they finish with a record among the bottom three in the league. Tony shares his thoughts below:

Also: Tony needs to dominate Fisher.

Next up: A skinny kid from Bahia Blanca comes to Texas and revolutionizes the sport of basketball

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