The San Antonio Spurs struck gold when they drafted Tony Parker in 2001, but as he revealed in his new book, the Boston Celtics almost beat them to it.
Predicting how an NBA player is going to pan out can sometimes be impossible. As a result, every team has had their share of draft day blunders and mistakes that haunted them for years. The San Antonio Spurs are no strangers to making such errors themselves. But in 2001, it was a monumental mishap by the Boston Celtics that changed the course of the Spurs’ future forever.
The Boston Celtics have already been eternally tormented by the fact that they had the best odds for the number one pick in 1997 that would’ve landed them Tim Duncan. Despite that, the Spurs jumped up two spots in that Draft Lottery, securing their franchise superstar for the next two decades.
As Tony Parker revealed in his latest book, Beyond All of My Dreams, the Celtics were even closer to snatching another of San Antonio’s Big Three than they ever were with securing Duncan.
“The Celtics had me do a private workout a few days before the draft and assured me they would take me at 21,” said Parker.
Boston had three first-round picks in 2001 — 10th, 11th, and 21st. After taking Joe Johnson and Kedrick Brown with their first two picks, it was all but assured that Tony would be their final pick of the round. At least, that’s what Parker believed.
How the San Antonio Spurs nearly missed out on their franchise point guard
As the countdown clock to the 21st pick wound down, Parker recalls even being handed a Celtics hat by an NBA employee working the NBA Draft, who stated, “Boston’s going to pick you. Start coming down.” As he made his way to the stage, hat in hand, the employee then stopped Parker in his tracks.
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“Tony, I’m sorry. Boston changed their mind. You can go back up,” said the employee. Instead of taking their chances on an international point guard, the Celtics decided to draft UNC shooting guard Joseph Forte.
Forte ended up playing a grand total of 125 minutes in the league, averaging 1.2 points and 0.7 rebounds per game.
As Parker explains, the Spurs have then club president Red Auerbach to thank for him falling through their hands.
“Boston’s GM and coach wanted me, but the owner got scared,” said Parker. Tony explains how the owner believed taking a chance on a European point guard was too risky and essentially shut down the pick at the last second.
As Tony also revealed in his book, San Antonio had spent much of draft day trying to move up in the draft to guarantee they get their man, but fortunately, that wasn’t necessary. With no other teams interested in selecting Parker, he fell to 28th, where the Spurs selected him, and the rest was history.
Whether it’s been from the bounce of a ball or a bad judgment call, the Boston Celtics missed out on two Hall of Famers that ended up being Spurs legends. Good looking out, Boston.