Top 50: Tony Parker, no. 15
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
Look up the word envy and you will see it is described as a noun originating from France that expresses a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another. Ask me to use it in a sentence and I can give you a few. For example, I envy the speed and teardrop floater that Tony Parker shows off every night he plays. You could also say I, a Houston Rockets fan, envy how many titles Tony Parker has helped lead the San Antonio Spurs to in his career. And it should go without saying that any sane individual must envy Parker for his relationship with a certain Desperate Housewife. It’s only fitting that both the word being dissected and the player in focus come from the same country.
Let’s step back a few sentences and clarify a point of discussion. You might be thinking, “Tony Parker didn’t lead S.A. to multiple titles. That was Tim Duncan.” You’d be partially right. Tim has unquestionably cemented himself as the greatest power forward of all-time. Without him the Spurs don’t have a dynasty. But there is a lack of respect that the point guard position receives, none more understanding of this notion than Parker. It wasn’t Tony’s job to take the last shot. That was Timmy’s job. Until recently, it has always been Parker’s job to defer. And while Duncan stepped into the spotlight from day one of his NBA career, there is a certain beauty to the way Parker’s game has grown over the years, so much so that it shouldn’t be surprising if Parker supplants Duncan this season as the franchise player in San Antonio.
To study the timeline of Parker’s career is an exercise in maturity. He was a player that was initally dismissed by Gregg Popovich in a workout because he couldn’t handle the physical nature of the NBA game. Nothing has come easy for Parker. He had to figure out how to craft his style of play. He’s been in Pop’s doghouse plenty of times, even to the point where he was warned not to shoot 3′s. But every season that we see Parker, there is a new facet to his game. He’s not perfect but neither are we. Have any of us not been chastised by a coach for firing outside of our range? Parker is a player worth celebrating because he is the best of us. He has had to weather the same hardships every talented baller with a touch of recklessness had to endure, the difference being that he found a way to put it together. Parker’s growth as an NBA player is what we wish we could have achieved, if only we had that speed, that elusiveness, that… sorry, here comes the enviousness again.
It is only a matter of time before you see an ESPN header that reads “The French-ise” with Parker’s smiling mug underneath it. There’s no accounting for taste in headlines but it is time that we start accounting for Parker in terms of importance to the Spurs and the league in general. He’s already become the first European player to win an NBA Finals MVP, and Parker had career highs last season in points per game and assists, at 22.0 and 6.9 respectively. As Manu Ginobili and Duncan enter perhaps the twilight of their careers, which is strange to hear myself say, Parker is hitting his prime.
Anyone who questions this notion can go back to the 4-1 series loss the Spurs suffered at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. Tony dropped 28.6 a game on Dallas even though the Mavericks knew he and Duncan were the only two players worth guarding on the Spurs. Try convincing me Michael Finley was a threat. You have a better chance of arguing that Paul Blart: Mall Cop deserves an Academy Award. It takes a special player to slash through a defense that is waiting for him. Parker is that player.
Ask someone to name the best point guards in the NBA and you almost assuredly will hear the names of Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams listed first. How many rings do those guys have between them? Nada. Parker has three to his name. If he wins this year, and the Spurs have to be considered a serious contender with the acquisitions of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess, maybe Parker will be generous enough to keep one ring for himself and give one a piece to the aforementioned PGs on the list.
You can argue that Parker’s outside game is sorely lacking, that his jump shot can be inconsistent at times and that he has been blessed with exceptional talent around him. I’ll give you the first two contentions but you can’t blame a player for being placed on an organization that understands the importance of chemistry, balance and depth. And talent doesn’t equal championships. I submit the Phoenix Suns for your consideration. At the end of the day it is all about winning and right now there isn’t a point guard in the league with the amount of talent and rings to match Tony Parker.
In the same way that the New England Patriots don’t measure success by number of magazine front covers or jersey sales, the Spurs all understand that legacies are measured by championships. Based upon that criteria, Parker’s legacy rises higher than Vince Carter did in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. Parker said it best. “When there is talk about the best point guards, sometimes they don’t talk about me. But that’s not my main motivation. They can talk about Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. I still have the most rings.“
Truer words have never been spoken.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.