by DeMarco Williams / @demarcowill
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. While no one is 100 percent certain how the number came to represent all things evil, the condition is a very real one for many people. But if you believe the dreaded digit is just limited to high-rise floors and failed Apollo missions, think again. The number is actually pretty frightening around basketball circles, especially when you’re talking about point guards playing in the NBA.
Tony Parker, the 11th best player in the League and arguably the finest non-American hooper on the planet, is entering his 13th NBA campaign. When fleet-a-foot contemporaries like the great Isiah Thomas and Tim Hardaway hit that mark, their stats took a dive like the ditsy girl being chased by Jason Vorhees through the woods. By year 13, the ballers were mere shells of themselves, playing on legs that were starting to betray them nightly. Isaiah averaged about 18 points and 8 assists in year 12. The next year, Zeke’s last in the League, his numbers fell under 15 and 7. Scary, huh?
But even if you’re a superstitious resident of San Antonio, this is not the time to be terribly alarmed. We’ve seen signs in Parker over the past few months that suggest the curse that struck Isiah, Hardaway and Kevin Johnson—wait, KJ, retired after his 12th season, dun, dun, dun, dun—will all but pass right by Parker.
The first sign that the 31-year-old Parker won’t regress this coming year? The 2013 NBA Finals. (Sorry to bring this up for the 130th time, Spurs fans.) You, me and everybody with a working television set knows that had a foul call gone this way or a shot attempt gone that way, the Larry O’Brien Trophy could very well be sitting in the AT&T Center right now. But it’s not. Parker, who averaged 20/7/3 during the ‘13 Playoffs, is still a lil’ pissed by that fact. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the dude talk at the Spurs’ media day in late September you can tell the bitterness was still fresh on his tongue. He wants redemption. The man with one of the quickest first steps in the game wants to have the last laugh.
Another sure sign that Parker won’t face the same wrath that Stephon Marbury saw in the pivotal 13th season? He’s simply playing at too high a level right now. Parker’s performance at EuroBasket 2013 last month was otherworldly. Slick runners and contortionist-approved antics in the paint usually reserved for the Thunder and Lakers were unleashed in a semifinals performance versus Spain. The Frenchman scored 32 points, snatched 6 boards and tallied 2 steals. There was so much intensity in his eyes you would have sworn an Olympic medal was up for grabs. It wasn’t. Just positioning for the country’s first EuroBasket crown. Parker’s championship performance against Lithuania was pedestrian by his lofty standards (12 points on 6-17 shooting) but it was still enough to win tournament MVP and capture the trophy—oh, and earn the title of France’s greatest athlete ever in a recent poll in the national sports daily L’Equipe, beating out soccer god Zidane.
Still, the Fountain of Youth that Tim Duncan is guzzling from has to dry up eventually. And who knows how many more pulled hamstrings Manu Ginobili can push through? The time is now for Parker and the Spurs. I know, I know. We said that last year. We’re saying it emphatically now. Parker knows this, too, and he’ll show just how much by having monster games on November 13 versus John Wall’s Washington Wizards and on December 13 against Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves. By January 13’s tilt with the New Orleans Pelicans, Parker will be comfortably averaging 22 points, 6 assists and 4 dribble drives a game, and we’ll be penciling Coach Pop’s squad near the top of the West like we always do.
As much as Parker will be focused on the on-court opposition, though, he will have to start contending more with age, injuries (Parker’s only played 75-plus games once in the last six years) and exhaustion. That’s just the way it is. Make no mistake about it—triskaidekaphobia is very real. Even on the hardwood. But while many a contemporary’s career was either dead or slowly dying by the dreaded 13th year, Tony Parker is still very much killin’ it.
|SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.