- Category : Basketball Player
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/5 - Hermit / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 2
William Anthony "Tony" Parker, Jr. (born 17 May 1982) is a French professional basketball player who plays for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States.
The son of a professional basketball player, Parker played for two years in the French basketball league before entering the 2001 NBA Draft. He was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 28th overall pick in the draft and quickly became their starting point guard, helping the Spurs win three NBA championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Employing his pace and high field goal percentage to great effect, Parker has been named to five NBA All-Star games, an All-NBA Second Team, and an All-NBA Third Team. He was the 2007 NBA Finals MVP.
Parker is also a music artist with his own music album TP. He married actress Eva Longoria on 7 July 2007. In November 2010, both parties filed for divorce.
Parker was born in Bruges, Belgium, but raised in France. His father, Tony Parker Sr., an African-American, played basketball at Loyola University Chicago as well as professionally overseas. His mother, Pamela Firestone, is a Dutch model. Parker enjoyed close relationships with his brothers and they would often attend their father's basketball games together. At first, Parker was more interested in soccer, but after watching the evolution of Michael Jordan into a global basketball superstar, he changed his mind. Moreover, Parker's two younger brothers were also heavily involved in basketball; T.J. and Pierre would go on to play basketball at college and professional levels. As Parker built his skill, his lack of size (notwithstanding a growth spurt at 15) decided his position on-court. He played the point guard position, recognizing that his speed and agility made this position ideal for him. He was eventually talent-spotted and asked to attend the National Institute for Sports and Physical Education in Paris. After playing in the French amateur leagues for two seasons, Parker turned professional and signed with Paris Basket Racing in 1999.
In the summer of 2000, Parker was invited to the Nike Hoop Summit in Indianapolis. There, in front of professional scouts and college coaches, he competed against the likes of future NBA players Darius Miles, Zach Randolph and Omar Cook. In a contest between the American and European All-Stars, Parker recorded 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. The Frenchman's performance prompted a recruiting war between several colleges, including UCLA and Georgia Tech who were on the verge of persuading Parker to join them. However, Parker decided to forgo the NCAA and to remain in France; he spent the next two years with Paris Basket Racing in the French League before entering the 2001 NBA Draft.
San Antonio Spurs
"...when we gave him his first workout, we didn't think he was tough enough – and we sent him home. And then we set up another interview, another workout... and he was fantastic in that one."
Prior to the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker was invited to the San Antonio Spurs summer camp. Parker's first experiences were daunting as coach Gregg Popovich had him play against Spurs scout and ex-NBA player Lance Blanks. Parker was so overwhelmed by Blank's tough and physical defense that Popovich was ready to send him away after just 10 minutes. But after seeing a "best of" mix tape of Parker's best plays, Popovich decided to invite Parker a second time. This time, Parker made a better impression against Blanks; the Frenchman later described Blanks as a "one-man wrecking crew". But while Popovich decided that Parker was worth the gamble, the Spurs still had to hope that other teams would not pick Parker during the draft. As it were, Parker's name was barely mentioned in the pre-draft predictions and the point guard was drafted 28th overall by the Spurs on draft day.
After initially playing backup to Antonio Daniels, Parker was made a starter and made 77 regular season appearances in his rookie season, averaging 9.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game. When he played against the Los Angeles Clippers on 30 November 2001, he became the third French player ever to play in an NBA game, after Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Jerome Moiso. Parker brought to the Spurs a greater tempo in their game, getting his teammates better looks at the basket whenever he was involved in transition offense. He could also hit open jump shots, and this created greater space for the big men on the team, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. By the end of the season, the rookie led San Antonio in assists and steals, and was named to the All-Rookie First Team for 2001–02, becoming the first foreign-born guard to earn the honor. Although the Spurs were eliminated during the playoffs, Parker's performances did not go unnoticed.
In 2002–03, Parker played in all 82 regular season games as San Antonio's starting point guard on a team that was largely revamped from previous years. He improved his regular season statistics significantly, averaging 15.5 points per game (ppg), 5.3 assists per game (apg) and 2.6 rebounds per game (rpg). Parker's role as the team's playmaker was reflected in his leading the team in assists on 49 occasions. During the 2003 NBA All-Star Weekend, Parker represented the Sophomores in the Got Milk? Rookie Challenge, and also participated in the inaugural 989 Sports Skills Challenge. In the post season, Parker recorded two career bests in scoring as the Spurs, led by Tim Duncan, defeated the New Jersey Nets 4–2 in the finals, and Parker earned his first NBA championship ring. Despite the victory, Parker struggled with inconsistent play throughout the playoffs, and was often substituted for the more experienced guards Steve Kerr and Speedy Claxton late in the games. Throughout the season, Parker also felt that he was often criticized too harshly by coach Popovich; in retrospect, coach Popovich admitted he was critical of his young playmaker, stating he wanted Parker to build a thick skin and mature sooner than his peers.
Despite winning a championship with the Spurs, doubts lingered over Parker's future. The Spurs had attempted and failed to acquire New Jersey Nets' Jason Kidd, but Parker told coach Popovich that he wanted to be San Antonio's starting point guard and he was ready to work hard to become a great player. Parker played well during the regular season, recording 14.7 ppg, 5.5 apg and 3.2 rpg. However, the Spurs were defeated by perennial rivals Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semi-finals in the 2004 NBA Playoffs, and the favorites were denied back-to-back titles.
During the 2004–05 season, Parker recorded improved regular season statistics, securing career-highs of 16.6 ppg, 6.1 apg and 3.7 rpg. He was also ranked 13th in the league in total assists, and was third among point guards in field goal percentage. The Spurs were strong in the playoffs, and Parker was instrumental in the victories over the Denver Nuggets, Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns. However, the Frenchman struggled in the Finals series against the Detroit Pistons. Spurs colleagues Manu Ginóbili and Brent Barry often took over playmaking duties as Parker was unable to perform as well as he did in the regular season. Pitted against ex-Finals MVP and All-Defensive Team member Chauncey Billups, Parker's jump shot became inconsistent, and his trademark drives to the hoop were often smothered by the defensively strong Pistons frontcourt anchored by four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. Nevertheless, with the combination of Tim Duncan's consistent performances, the emergence of Argentine star Ginóbili and Parker operating as playmaker, the Spurs won their third ever NBA championship by defeating the defending champions 4–3 in the 2005 NBA Finals.
"He told me, 'Coach, I'll play in the NBA and, one day, France will recognize me as a great player'. It's incredible how, at 18 years old, he could have such confidence. I thought he could play in the NBA, but not that he would become a player of the importance he is today."
Parker was selected for the first time in his career an NBA All-Star for the 2005–06 season as he managed a regular season career-high 18.9 ppg and an impressive .548 in field goal percentage. Parker's scoring average was even higher than Duncan's, and his form propelled the Spurs to a 63–19 win–loss record and qualification for the 2006 NBA Playoffs. However, the top-seeded Spurs were again unable to win back-to-back titles as they were eliminated in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks.
On 14 February 2007, after delivering consistent numbers in the first half of the 2006–07 season, Parker was selected to play in the 2007 NBA All-Star Game as a reserve guard. With Parker operating as the starting point guard in the 2006–07 season, the Spurs qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs and finished second in the Southwest Division. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Spurs met the Phoenix Suns led by two-time and reigning NBA MVP Steve Nash. In the match-up versus the best point guard of his generation, Parker used his speed to score an easy layup, or hit with his improved mid-range jump shot. Suns coach Mike D'Antoni even used All-Defensive Team forward Shawn Marion to cover Parker, but the Frenchman used the pick and roll to beat his much bigger counterpart. After eliminating the Suns, the Spurs defeated the Utah Jazz 4–1 to win the Western Conference Finals. Parker and the Spurs went on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and swept them 4–0 to win the 2007 NBA Finals. In this series, Parker consistently outplayed his Cavaliers counterparts Daniel Gibson and All-Defensive Team member Larry Hughes and scored a series-high 24.5 points, accompanied by a high field goal percentage of 56.8% and of 57.1% from three-point range. For his performances, he was named the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, becoming the first European-born player to receive the award.
The next era
"When there is talk about the best point guards, sometimes they don't talk about me. But that's not my main motivation, They can talk about Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. I still have the most rings."
In the 2007–08 regular season, Parker recorded similar averages as the previous two seasons for points and rebounds, and set a career-high for assists per game. The Spurs finished third in the Western Conference and faced the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. For the third time in four years, San Antonio prevailed over Phoenix; Parker had an outstanding first round series, averaging nearly 30 points and 7 assists a game. In the next round against Chris Paul's New Orleans Hornets, the Spurs dropped the first two road games before responding with a strong win in the third game. In that game, Parker recorded a double-double with 31 points and 11 assists. The experienced Spurs took seven games to defeat the Hornets, but were unable to get past arch-rivals Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals, and the Spurs once again failed to capture back-to-back NBA championships.
San Antonio got off to a rocky start in their 2008–09 NBA season, losing the first three contests. In their fourth game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, however, Parker scored a career-high 55 points to lead the Spurs to their first victory of the campaign. The Spurs recovered soon enough, and approached the All-Star break ranked second in the Conference. With Parker averaging career-highs in points and assists per game, he was named as a reserve for the 2009 All-Star game. The Spurs were without influential shooting guard Ginóbili for much for the season, and greater responsibility fell on Parker's shoulders. Assisting the team to a 54–28 record and the third seed for the playoffs, Parker also registered career-highs in points and assists per game. In Game 4 of the first round against Dallas, Parker matched George Gervin's franchise playoff record for points in a half with 31. However, the Spurs were put on the back pedal from the start and eventually lost 4–1, bowing out of the playoffs in the first round for the first time since 2000. Parker's 28.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game broke his previous playoffs career-best averages of 22.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. On 13 May 2009, he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
During the 2011–12 NBA season, Parker helped the Spurs reach the best record in the West for the second straight season; the team tied the Chicago Bulls for the best overall record in the league. On 4 February 2012, Parker became the all-time assist leader of the franchise with 4,477, surpassing Avery Johnson, while adding 42 points in a victory against Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs secured their 13th straight 50 win season despite the lockout (a new NBA record), and Parker received his fourth All-Star nod. He finished fifth in MVP award voting, receiving four first-place votes. Late in the season, the Spurs signed Parker's longtime friend Boris Diaw, who was claimed off waivers from the Charlotte Bobcats, to add synergy to the Spurs. In the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Parker averaged 20.1 points and 6.8 assists as the Spurs swept through the first two rounds, defeating the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers. In the Western Conference Finals the Spurs faced the young Oklahoma City Thunder. After winning Game 1 and Game 2, 101–98 and 120–111 respectively, and taking a 2–0 series lead, the Spurs lost four consecutive games, thus losing the series 4–2.
In their second game of the 2012–13 season, the Spurs faced the Thunder in a rematch of the previous Western Conference Finals, and Parker hit a game-winner to secure a win for the Spurs. On 10 December 2012, Parker got his first career triple-double after 825 regular season games against the Houston Rockets in overtime with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. He was the 4th player in NBA history to have gone 800 games or more into their career before their first triple-double, joining Karl Malone (860), Patrick Ewing (834), and Cedric Maxwell (824). Parker was named Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of January 2013 for leading the Spurs to a 12-3 record, and the best record in the NBA. He averaged 21.9 points per game and 7.9 assists per game that month while shooting 56.3% from the field. He became the first Spurs player to receive the honor since Tim Duncan in April 2002.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Parker signed with ASVEL Villeurbanne, the team that he owns a stake in. However, unlike other players who signed lucrative contract overseas during the lockout, Parker opted to play in his home country for minimum wage. Parker, who in the summer had received a four-year contract extension from the Spurs worth over $50 million, received only $ 2,000 per month from ASVEL. He also paid his own insurance, which reportedly cost $ 250,000 for three months.
Parker played for France's Junior National Teams at the 1997 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship, both the 1998 and 2000 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championships, and the 2002 FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship. He was elected the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, when France captured the gold medal, and Parker averaged 25.8 points, 6.8 assists and 6.8 steals per game. With the French senior national team, Parker has played in the 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 FIBA European Championships.
France won the bronze medal in the 2005 FIBA European Championships, by defeating the Spanish national team 98–68 in the bronze medal game. As the captain of the French national team since 2003, Parker was slated to lead France at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, but he was unable to play after breaking a finger when he caught his hand in the jersey of a Brazilian national team player in France's final warm up for the tournament. During the 2007 FIBA European Championship, Parker averaged 20.1 points per game and 2.8 assists per game in nine tournament games, but France was defeated in the quarter-finals by the Russian national team. He passed the 2010 FIBA World Championship to recover fully from some injuries he had during the 2009–10 NBA season. Parker returned to the team in 2011, and France reached the finals of the FIBA European Championship, losing to Spain. Parker also joined the team for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Parker plays the point guard position and has established himself as a potent scorer. Voted by his peers in a 2007 poll as one of the quickest players in the NBA, he often slashes to the basket for a layup or teardrop shot. Despite his relatively small size for a basketball player (6'2"), he led the league in "points in the paint" for a large portion of the 2005–06 season.
In the initial part of his NBA career, Parker was still considered an erratic shooter of the ball and during the 2005 off-season, coach Popovich decided to work on this aspect of his play. Seeing his mediocre shooting percentages (at that point, Parker only hit 65% of his free throws, and only 27.6% of his three-point shots), he let him train extra sessions with Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland. Engelland forbade Parker to shoot any three-point shots, and among others, corrected his shooting motion and his thumb position. As a result, by the 2006–07 season, Parker had reduced his three-point shots by 117 while shooting 147 more normal field goal attempts compared to 2005, and his accuracy rose by 4% (field goals and three-point shots) and he was able to connect on 78% of his free throws that season. Parker's field goal percentage is also high for a point guard, and his speed also makes him a fast break player. However, his style of play has had adverse effects on his knees (tendinitis).