Tony Parker: Analyzing the Stages of the Future Hall-of-Famer’s Career

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Just a week ago, all of the attention was on Tony Parker. All season, the Spurs had looked to the Rodeo Road Trip as the biggest opportunity to find their groove and return to championship form, but when that time came around it was just another disappointment in what has been a very concerning season for the defending champions.

Tony Parker had perhaps the worst stretch of games of his career, his lingering hamstring injury limiting his ability penetrate the paint and the psych of being an aging NBA star hanging over his head as he missed the shots we had come to take for granted.

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Thankfully for San Antonio fans, there has been a change over the last couple of games. Parker’s layups began rolling in once more, and better yet he started hitting his mid-range jumper with sharp efficiency. His passes have been crisp and smart, and overall he has played with a cool head and high energy in this last pair of Spurs victories.

However, as a 32-year-old point guard, Parker cannot expect to return to the always-explosive force that he has been for most of his career. He cannot be “the guy” on offense anymore, as great of a player as he still is, it is time for him to make yet another transition in playing style, which is something TP has been doing for years. While there are a few things that have been constant and unique about Parker from the beginning, Spurs fans have gotten to see the distinct differences in his playing style as his career rolls on. I present to you: The four Tony Parker’s:

TONY PARKER 1.0 (2001-2004) “THE SPARK”

When Parker first came into the NBA, he was an explosive young player with a high ceiling and an even higher motor. He was just about a starter right away, but he was more of a raw talent than anything. He was an exciting offensive asset plugged into a defensive powerhouse, who ended up proving to be one of the main three pieces that would turn the Spurs into Larry O’ Brien trophy eating monsters for years to come. However, in the beginning, Tony was just a 19-year-old French kid trying to prove himself.

TONY PARKER 2.0 (2005-2010) “THE SCORER”

Around the time the Spurs made their run for a 3rd championship, the French point guard was starting to really hone his offensive game. It was clear that any initial self-doubts he had as a NBA player were gone. He really found himself below the basket, where his acrobatic finishes and incredible touch made him a once-in-a-lifetime player. He thrived in the paint and on the fast break, but all the while he was doing this he was able to develop a lethal floater, an always-improving mid range jump shot, and even a little bit of  a post game. During these years, when the rest of the Spurs did most of the thinking, Parker did the gunning, not needing to use those new skills so much. Parker knew, however, it was only a matter of a time before he was asked to be more than just the guy who attacks the rim.

TONY PARKER 3.0 (2011-2014) “THE ORCHESTRATER”

Parker became the leader of the Spurs offense around the time the NBA was beginning to count them out, citing them as too old and over the hill. He was able to provide their aging team with energy that could move the whole court. If it wasn’t his penetration and scoring, then maybe he would pass out for an assist. His newly dependable mid range jumper opened up passing lanes inside for the star point guard, and his speed alone could do enough damage to a defense to create openings for his teammates. He was the guy the Spurs wanted to take over in close games, to lead the team to testing comebacks and to push them over the edge with relentless effort. Sometimes even in the discussion for MVP candidacy, Parker prove himself capable of being a superstar at the highest level of basketball, and his amazing transition from a young speedster to one of the most skilled players in the entire NBA is one of the most memorable chronicles of the Big 3 era.

TONY PARKER 4.0 (2014-????) “THE CALM”

This version of Parker is just now budding, but if he’s to continue to maximize his potential on the Spurs, this needs to be his role: A skilled veteran scorer and playmaker who is poised, smart, and an on-the-court leader. While it’s becoming more and more evident that Kawhi is the guy, as he’s led the team in shot attempts and scored 20+ points in each of the last three games, he’s still a young man finding his confidence on that end of the floor. Parker needs to become more like Duncan in terms of attitude; less aggressive than he was in years past but also prepared to take advantage of every opportunity and make as big of an impact as possible. As the final chapters of Parker’s career unfold, only time will tell just how successful Tony Parker 4.0 can be, but his presence is necessary if the Spurs are to contend for a sixth title this year.

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