by Brendan Bowers / @BowersCLE

Maybe it’s because we called him Tim Duncan’s point guard as he entered the NBA universe. That kid from France we would see Gregg Popovich screaming at until his face exploded.

Maybe it’s because he once married a television star more famous than he was. Or that some people viewed him as the complimentary piece of a Championship-winning trio in San Antonio.

Whatever the reason, the truth was always the same.

More than any other NBA star from his era, Tony Parker’s been assembling a Hall of Fame career in the shadows.

Before there was Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving changing the game from the point guard position, Tony Parker was in the paint doing work.

His NBA Finals MVP performance in 2007 is routinely remembered as Tim Duncan’s fourth title. Truth is, Parker was the most unstoppable force on the floor that postseason.

He didn’t need Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili or anyone else to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers that year. He could’ve done it himself. I was there watching, and it was a clinic.

Last year, Tony Parker came in at No. 35 on the SLAMonline Top 50. On the strength of leading his team to the Western Conference Finals, he moves up 20 spots on this year’s list to No. 15 overall.

It’s a testament to the fact SLAMonline recognizes Parker’s ultimate value on the basketball court. Even after 11 years in the Association.

Tony Parker averaged a career high in assists at 7.7 during the ‘11-12 regular season. He chased that with 18.3 points per game. A number he then improved during the Playoffs to just over 20.

Parker was his team’s best offensive weapon last season, helping to lead a Spurs attack that averaged 110.9 points on 100 possessions. Which all started with his ability to get into the paint and create for teammates.

He helped Kawhi Leonard make major strides. He found Gary Neal and Danny Green wide open along the perimeter. In the process, the Spurs continued to win at a major clip.

And guys like Danny Green got paid because of all that.

At 30 years old, entering his 12th season in the League, expect Parker to pick-up right where he left off last season. While not necessarily known for his defensive ability, Parker is on pace to set a new career mark for steals as a Spur this season. On his career, he continues to average at least 1 steal per game.

He is the biggest reason why the Spurs stand a chance to threaten the NBA’s three premier powers: the Lakers, Heat and Thunder. Albeit not a great chance, but still a chance nonetheless.

In a potential match-up with Los Angeles and Miami, Parker is without question the best point guard on the court. The overall edge would still go to Russell Westbrook in an OKC showdown, but Parker will make him earn everything he gets on both ends.

Unlike other point guards, maybe Tony Parker just had to wait his turn for the spotlight he always deserved. Maybe now that Tim Duncan’s slowing down, we’re able to see the pace that Parker’s been playing at all these years a bit more clearly.

But then again, anybody who’s been paying attention has always known what Parker can do.

He’s a top-15 player right now and deserves all the recognition he has coming to him. Maybe even more.


Where should Tony Parker rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Greg MonroePistonsC8
49Tyreke EvansKingsPG14
48Brandon JenningsBucksPG13
47Stephen CurryWarriorsPG12
46Ricky RubioTWolvesPG11
45Al JeffersonJazzPF14
44Anthony DavisHornetsPF13
43Serge IbakaThunderPF12
42Al HorfordHawksC7
41Ty LawsonNuggetsPG10
40Danny GrangerPacersSF6
39Tim DuncanSpursPF11
38John WallWizardsPG9
37Monta EllisBucksSG8
36Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF10
35Roy HibbertPacersC6
34Tyson ChandlerKnicksC5
33Eric GordonHornetsSG7
32Kevin GarnettCelticsPF9
31Manu GinobiliSpursSG6
30Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF8
29Marc GasolGrizzliesC4
28DeMarcus CousinsKingsC3
27Paul PierceCelticsSF5
26Andre IguodalaNuggetsSG5
25Rudy GayGrizzliesSF4
24Josh SmithHawksPF7
23Derrick RoseBullsPG8
22Joe JohnsonNetsSG4
21Steve NashLakersPG7
20James HardenThunderSG3
19Pau GasolLakersPF6
18Chris BoshHeatPF5
17Kyrie IrvingCavsPG6
16LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF4
15Tony ParkerSpursPG5

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.