His entire first year with the Spurs, Tim Duncan didn’t say a word to Tony Parker. Duncan won an NBA title his second year in the NBA (’98/’99) and returned to each season expecting to be in the Finals. He just didn’t understand Pop’s passion for drafting completely unknown international players.
It turned out Pop was right and that Ginobili kid was quite good at basketball. If you look at one of the greatest basketball teams ever to play, the ’13/’14 San Antonio Spurs, you had players from Australia, Italy, France, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and the U.S. Virgin Island playing the beautiful game. The guy from the U.S. Virgin Islands never saw it coming. He actually told Pop the french guy would never be a good player.
“But why are we drafting a European point guard? We’ll never win a title with a European point guard.”Tim Duncan, “Tony Parker: Beyond All My Dreams”
Now we know why Duncan didn’t speak to Parker for his first year there. He was convinced Parker would burn out and go back home, so why bother. We all praise the Spurs for beating everyone to the punch for recognizing the talent outside of the US. It’s taken for granted the Spurs were the United Nations of the NBA.
After the Spurs dominated the Heat in ’13/’14, Miami traded for Shabazz Napier on draft night because LeBron tweeted about him. A single tweet was all it took. The Spurs had their franchise guy and NBA champion frustrated after they drafted a European point guard to the point he didn’t speak to the mean for an entire year. How did the Spurs respond? They drafted Louis Scola and Leandro Barbossa in the next two drafts (’02 and ’03.)
A Croatian shooting guard in the 90s broke the ceiling and the stereotypes. A shooting guard from Argentina and a point guard from France won it all several times. And in 2020, the reigning two-time MVP is Greek, and a Slovenian kid is no.1 on the “Who’d you build a franchise around?” list.
What’s next? Google Basketball Africa League.