Tony Parker’s legendary run as a member of the San Antonio Spurs has come to a close, but his legacy will live forever.
On Wednesday, June 27, 2001, the San Antonio Spurs used the 29th pick in the NBA Draft on a 19 year-old point guard from France, effectively changing their organization’s history forever. After 17 seasons in the silver and black, franchise point guard Tony Parker is headed to Charlotte on a two-year deal.
As a key contributor in four of the team’s five championships, Parker clearly defined himself as the greatest point guard in team history. He is San Antonio’s all-time leading assist man by a margin of +2,000 over the second leading passer in Avery Johnson.
Over the course of his 17 seasons, Parker emulated the ideal point guard with his unique blend of scoring and passing. His selflessness, competitive nature and attention to detail were paramount in building a winning culture in the Alamo City. Over the course of a decade between 2004-2014, Parker was widely considered one of the greatest point guards in basketball, if not the best, in spite of some serious competition.
With Parker joining former assistant coach James Borrego and lifelong friend Nicolas Batum in Charlotte, it’s time to reflect on some of Tony’s greatest moments as a Spur. With dozens of epochal moments to choose from, these four stick out when creating a collage of TP9’s iconic career.
Next: Miracle Buzzer Beater in Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals
Miracle Buzzer Beater in Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals
Pressure is second nature to Tony Parker. Over the course of his career, he has routinely proven himself as a remarkable crunchtime scorer. After reaching the finals for the first time in six seasons, the longest finals drought in the Big Three Era, San Antonio found themselves in a back-and-forth battle against the Miami Heat.
But first, some context.
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Fresh off of his fourth MVP Award, LeBron James and his own Big Three of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had an unthinkable season. Just three months prior, Miami pulled off the second longest winning streak ever recorded with 27 consecutive wins spanning nearly two months. Miami tore the Eastern Conference to shreds, losing only four games en route to the Finals.
Meanwhile, San Antonio staggered the postseason with an incredible run of their own including two sweeps in the first round and conference finals. The budding dynasty in Miami and the champs of the past collided in what’s widely considered one of the greatest Finals the game has ever seen.
The first contest came down to the wire as San Antonio clutched onto a two point lead with 18 seconds remaining. Face-to-face with LeBron James, Parker pounded the ball and depleted the shot clock before curling around a Kawhi Leonard screen, followed immediately with a Duncan pick at the top of the key.
Bosh was an excellent defender, but San Antonio knew that Parker had a chance to blow past him for an easy layup at the rim. Erik Spoelstra, who’d established himself as an elite coach, was well aware of the plan. As Parker drove toward the right wing, Wade snatched at the ball and LeBron switched onto Parker with just 3.5 seconds left in the shot clock. Off balance, he fell to one knee while keeping his dribble alive with his off-hand.
What ensued was by far one of the most improbable buckets in Finals history. Smothered by the MVP, Parker twisted around James, ducked under his outstretched arm and released a soft jumper off the glass. After rattling around the rim, the bucket dropped and the Spurs escaped Miami with a victory to begin the series.
Few players could pull off a shot with this degree of difficulty, especially while guarded by LeBron at the height of his powers. Stealing game one in Miami was pivotal in the Spurs’ attempt at upsetting the eventual champs. For many fans, the defining moment of that series was ‘The Shot’ by Ray Allen in Game Six, but this was one fragment of memory from the Big Three’s only Finals loss that San Antonio could cling to. In many ways, this moment inspired the Spurs’ gentleman’s sweep of Miami in the following year’s Finals.
Next: Career-High 55 Points in Minnesota
Career-High 55 Points in Minnesota
There are certain moments you can look to in a legend’s career that truly embody their greatness. On Nov. 5, 2008, a random Wednesday early in the regular season, Tony Parker put on an otherworldly performance to save his team from mediocrity.
San Antonio couldn’t find a rhythm to begin the year. With three consecutive losses, including home losses against their rival Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, Parker and the Spurs were fed up. Manu Ginobili had been sidelined to begin the year with a bum ankle, meaning the healthy duo of the Big Three were left a larger workload.
This wasn’t an issue for Tony Parker.
With a lackluster offensive output from the supporting cast, he scored the first eight points of the game for San Antonio. His blistering speed and soft touch allowed him to finish near the basket with ease, but this was nothing new. TP had spent the previous seven seasons of his career terrorizing opponents with these same moves, but something was different on this night. From the jump, it was clear that he was light years ahead of anyone on the floor offensively.
Minnesota jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, at which point Parker realize the game was his for the taking. A dominant outing from Minnesota’s duo of Al Jefferson and Mike Miller kept the game close to the final seconds, when Tim Duncan banked in a hook shot to force overtime.
Parker was quiet in overtime, mainly involving his teammates and keying in on defensive assignments. That didn’t last for long.
Jefferson, isolated against Duncan on the low block, drained a high-arching hook shot to give Minnesota a two-point lead with 2.5 seconds remaining. The Target Center erupted as Gregg Popovich called timeout to rally his team for their last chance. He decided to ride the hot hand despite a quiet overtime.
With just one shot left, Parker curled around a high-post screen from Duncan into the short corner, where he faked left and faded right on a midrange jumper at the buzzer expired. Nothing but net.
He rattled off three signature floaters for six of the team’s first eight points in overtime before sealing the game with three free throws. San Antonio escaped with their first victory of the season on the back of their star guard’s greatest scoring performance of his life. Tony finished with an unreal stat line of 55 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds on 22-36 shooting from the floor. Parker had become the first player since his idol, Michael Jordan to post a stat line of at least 50 points and 10 dimes.
He earned an All-Star selection and a spot on the All-NBA Third Team in the 2008-2009 season, one of his best to date. Parker averaged 22 points on the season, marking the highest scoring season of his career.
Next: 2007 WCSF Game 1 at Suns - 32 Pts, 8 Assists en route to Finals MVP
2007 Western Conference Semifinals Game 1 at Suns – 32 Pts, 8 Assists
It’s no secret that Tony Parker took over as San Antonio’s go-to guy in the 2007 playoffs. As one of the team’s leading contributors, Parker was extremely well respected and recognized coming off of his second All-Star season. Now, in game one of a rivalry series against two-time MVP Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, Parker made sure to grab a quick victory to open the series.
Parker sliced and diced the Phoenix defense throughout the evening, taking Steve Nash to the rack whenever possible. While Nash was never necessarily known for his defense, Parker noticeably dominated his opponent every time down the floor.
This game solidified Parker’s place within the top tier of point guards in an era where floor generals ruled the game. In many ways, Parker was part of a resurgence that brought dual-threat point guards to the forefront of the NBA. While his stellar passing and court vision were on full display, it was TP’s unstoppable scoring that stunned Mike D’Antonio and the Suns’ coaching staff. Nash himself, who has been noted as one of the strongest basketball minds to ever live, couldn’t figure out how he and the Suns could slow Parker down.
Toe-to-toe with defensive menace Shawn Marion, Parker’s pull-up midrange jumper and explosive speed proved to be way too much for Phoenix. He finished with 32 points on 14-22 shooting to pair with eight assists and three steals. More so than his stats may show, Parker provided a bucket for himself or a teammate whenever necessary. Duncan had a stellar game himself with 33 points and 16 rebounds. The duo combined for nearly sixty percent of the team’s scoring without accounting for Parker’s assist total.
Along with Manu, who scored just eight points in 28 minutes, San Antonio’s Big Three went on to finish the series in six games and coast past the Utah Jazz in five. Led by Parker, who snagged his coveted Finals MVP Trophy, San Antonio claimed their fourth title in a sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Next: Game Winner against OKC during Home Opener, 2012
Game Winner against Oklahoma City on Nov. 1, 2012
One of the more interesting rivalries of the past decade is the tug-of-war between San Antonio and Oklahoma City. While it never had the longevity or spite of other matchups, the two powerhouses of the Western Conference constantly collided in both the regular and postseasons. Just months prior, Kevin Durant torched San Antonio before reaching their first NBA Finals appearance. Combining for an average of 66.2 points per game, the OKC Big Three burst onto the scene with reckless abandon and eliminated the Spurs in six games.
Parker began the season strong with a 23 point outing in the season opener against New Orleans. For the first game of his bright career, Anthony Davis posted a near double-double of 21 poi3nts and seven rebounds. The rising star was tasked with guarding one of his idols in Tim Duncan, who dropped a double-double of his own with 24 points and 11 boards. Down by two late in the fourth quarter, The French phenom drained a three-pointer to give San Antonio the lead with just 50 seconds remaining. The Spurs escaped the Big Easy with their first win of the year and returned home to meet the team that thwarted their championship hopes just months prior.
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At this point in his career, Russell Westbrook was respected as one of the league’s best point guards but hadn’t yet emerged as the indomitable force he is today. Nevertheless, Parker had a quiet game while setting focus on his defensive assignment. While setting up teammates and moving the ball, Parker only hit four of his 11 attempts up until the final 30 seconds of the game. Ultimately, his last two field goals overshadowed a mediocre shooting night.
Down by three with thirty seconds remaining, Boris Diaw delivered a beautiful pass into the corner to Tony, who’d positioned himself away from the action. He spotted up and cashed in on his only triple of the night. Tie game.
Historically, Parker has been overshadowed when ranking the game’s most clutch performers. Playing concurrently with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson has left TP out of the limelight, but his ability to close out games is uncanny. At young Kawhi Leonard, now in his sophomore season, poked the ball loose from Russell Westbrook with just under six seconds remaining. Tim Duncan called timeout on the floor and the team convened in a huddle led by Coach Pop.
Now, in a halfcourt setting, Danny Green received the inbound pass at the top of the key, where he stumbled backward because of some awkward footing. As random as this was, it gave Tony Parker the extra second he needed to curl past three screens to the left wing, where he caught the pass and jetted to his left. Parker rose up, delivered one of his signature off-balance midrange jumpers.
Nothing but net.
To open a season with back-to-back game winners is unprecedented. To do so against the previous season’s conference champions made it all the sweeter. Parker was the number one option in what many consider the Spurs’ best regular season of the past decade. Home openers can set the tone for a year and TP put the league on high alert.
Parker set the bar for all future point guards in San Antonio by embodying the perfect Spur over the course of his 17 seasons in the silver and black. While fans will miss his presence, Parker’s found a new opportunity as Dejounte Murray has taken the reigns under Coach Pop. No matter where he ends up, Parker is and always will be a Spur for life.