Many aspiring basketball players dream of winning championships and winning MVP awards in the NBA as they look to make a name for themselves in the league. But for Tony Parker, his dream was just to make it to the NBA. Anything else that came afterward would be the cherry on top.
All Parker ended up doing was becoming a vital member of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty and one of the greatest European basketball players of all time. Parker quickly became the Spurs starting point guard early in his rookie season, and he ended up being the motor that made San Antonio’s offense tick for 15+ seasons.
While some may say that Parker might have set his sights short by just looking to make it to the NBA, given we all know just how good he was now, it’s also worth considering the circumstances Parker faced in the early 2000s. Rarely did European players make it in the league, let alone stick with a team for an extended period. As a result, Parker just hoped someone would take a chance on him.
“Back in the day, you have to put it in perspective, there weren’t a lot of European guys in the NBA, and European point guards never made it in the NBA, I was the first one. My dream was just to get in the NBA, I couldn’t imagine winning championships or MVP of the Finals, stuff like that wasn’t even in my mind.” Tony Parker, France 24
Parker ended up becoming one of the best point guards of his generation
The Spurs used a late first-round pick on Parker in the 2001 NBA Draft, so there weren’t many expectations for him early on. But coach Gregg Popovich quickly anointed him the team’s starting point guard, and the rest was history.
Parker was at the controls of San Antonio’s offense for their four most recent titles, and he even won Finals MVP for his efforts in the 2007 Finals. Despite his slight frame, he could use his speed to quickly get to the paint for layups or floaters, even as he was a fairly mediocre shooter for most of his career. He was also fantastic at getting his teammates involved, which was good because there were a lot of mouths to feed on those Spurs teams he was on.
The guy who just wanted to make it to the NBA accomplished more than most players ever will. He was a four-time champion, a Finals MVP, a six-time All-Star, and so much more. Without him, the Spurs dynasty might have played out the way it did.
Parker helped pave the way for Europeans to make the jump to the NBA
Parker had to work harder than most to make it to the NBA because he was trying to make the jump from Europe, which wasn’t as common as it is now. Many folks believed that the quality of competition wasn’t nearly as good overseas as it was in the American college system. So Parker, like most overseas players, had to prove he could play against NBA-level talent.
In proving that he could, Parker helped erase some of the stigmas with European players in the NBA. He immediately came over from Europe and made his mark with the Spurs, which is something not many rookies were doing, let alone guys who were getting their first taste of American basketball.
That opened doors for guys like Nikola Jokic or Luka Doncic, which has allowed them to excel and take the NBA by storm. The same questions that followed Parker followed these two guys and every overseas player looking to make the jump. Jokic responded by winning back-to-back MVP awards, while Doncic has emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young superstars and maybe the best all-around point guard in the game currently.
Had Parker never been the trailblazer for European players to make the jump, maybe these guys wouldn’t get a shot to make their mark on the NBA. But now more than ever, teams are looking everywhere for the next NBA superstar, and sometimes that search takes them to Europe. If it weren’t for Parker, that might not be the case.