By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
There’s a completed chapter of basketball history hanging from the rafters of AT&T center. Tony Parker’s No.9 jersey is placed next to those of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as the big three of the Spurs golden era are now part of the NBA pantheon and much more.
French Tony Parker, together with Argentinian Manu Ginobili, helped make the game global, and their success was a pivotal step towards the modern NBA, in which the international players are a vital part of the league’s fabric.
“A point guard from France, a guard from Argentina and a big from the Virgin Islands, playing barefoot,” Parker said, referring, of course, also to Duncan, who was once more right beside him on a big moment, the ceremony of Parker’s jersey retirement.
Coach Gregg Popovich stole the show by saying to his former player: “Tony, I want to apologize for all the physical and mental abuse …”
It was a node to the constant pressure of coach Pop to Parker, who arrived in San Antonio back in 2001 as a 19-year old kid, to evolve into a starting point guard in the NBA. It was an era in which European point guards were a rarity in the NBA, but Parker and his success with the Spurs changed all that.
His close friend since high school, Boris Diaw, was also present. He has won an NBA championship with him and the Spurs and numerous accolades with the French national team, including the 2013 Eurobasket gold.
He talked about the Christmas of 2001 when he arrived in San Antonio to celebrate with Parker and ended up spending Christmas day on coach Popovich’s home. After dinner, both Pop and Parker disappeared, and Diaw went looking for them. He found them in a room with Popovich talking to Parker about the turnovers he made on a game the previous night. “That’s when I knew that my friend was in good hands,” Diaw said.
David Robinson, Bruce Bowen, Sean Elliot, general manager RC Buford, and also assistant coach Chip Engelland were present in the ceremony, as they played vital parts in Parker’s career.
Former Spurs assistant and current Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer also attended, together with many current and past Spurs players and even Parker’s teammates from the French national team, French soccer legend Thierry Henry, Hornets coach James Borrego, Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, French judo star Teddy Riner and executives from ASVEL.
“Thanks for all those years. It was a crazy ride,” Parker said.
Photo credit: Gettyimages