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Thursday, June 14th, 2007 at 4:11 pm  |  50 responses

Tony Parker: Pretty Tony

Before he made his bid for 2007 Finals MVP, he was featured in SLAM 109

The Dirk/Shaq SLAM 109 cover fiasco has been well-documented. But, if you open your issue to page 42, there is a story on a surprise favorite for 2007 Finals MVP. Maybe we secretly knew all along? Here is an excerpt of that feature.

He’s no Ghostface Killah on the mic, but San Antonio Spur Tony Parker plays a mean point guard.

By Khalid Salaam

I just watched Tony Parker’s rap video. It’s called “Balance-Toi” (translated roughly, it means “Swing Yourself”), and it’s the first single from his debut album, the eponymous Tony Parker.

It’s a light-hearted party banger type of joint, the kind of song that should get lots of play spins on mainstream radio. That is, if it was marketed better—or in the States, period—since the album is only available in TP’s home country of France so far.

American critics are killing it, complaining about the fact that he rhymes in French, as if somehow that’s a bad thing. A lot of the critics included words aimed at Parker’s fiancée, the actress Eva Longoria, slightly ridiculing her attempts to have her fiancé’s back.

These critics generally take the album much too seriously and don’t see it for the artistic expression that it is. They don’t seem to get that “rapping” is little more than a hobby for Parker and that in his real job, he demands nothing but respect. Seems that, as is often the case with Parker, people like to keep him submerged. Mais, pourquoi?

Although nobody ever really mentions his name when they talk about the better players in the NBA, it’s a falsehood to say that Tony Parker is underrated. But how it’s false doesn’t easily lend itself to understandable levels of comprehension.

Parker is a top-flight point guard, yet you don’t ever get the notion that kids imagine they’re him on the court. When reading our Punks section, I can’t think of anyone who has ever mentioned Parker as someone they model their game after. You’ll hear the up and coming PGs drop names like Chris Paul as someone worth emulating, though Paul will be lucky if he has the career that Parker has had so far.

You can’t rely on the small-market team notion as what is holding Parker down, either. A team’s market designation is related to population and local television figures, not exposure or relevance. The Spurs are one of the few teams that make League Pass seem like a waste of money since they’re always on national TV and have been this entire decade. Everybody is familiar with TP’s game because the Spurs embark on long Playoff runs every year. Standing in the Hall of Fame shadow of Tim Duncan dims Parker’s brightness for sure, as does playing alongside the careening Manu Ginobili. But those factors shouldn’t matter either.

It seems like an eternity since all those rumors surfaced after the ’03 Finals: the Spurs were to trade Parker to New Jersey in exchange for Jason Kidd. Well, I guess we shouldn’t call them rumors. Those talks had legs with cut-up calf muscles—the possibility was legit that TP would get moved. But for whatever reason, it never came to be. You hope that that Spurs thought better than to trade young for old, especially when the team had just won the NBA title against the very player they were considering trading for.

In the ensuing years since those rumors, it now seems unlikely that such a trade would have done much for the team’s fortunes. How much better could they have been? With TP at the helm, the Spurs have won their division six times running and never finished with less than 57 wins in any season. They won another championship in ’05 and are right in the thick of things for this postseason as well.

Maybe it’s some sort of international backlash that keeps Parker in the proverbial shadows. People already hold the French in contempt because of their perceived arrogance, a lack of appreciation after a certain war and a fascist dictator’s impact on history. Since I can remember, it’s been accepted to hate on the French and their pretty boy coffee choices. But since Tony is of mixed heritage, he sort of falls out of the category of a typical Frenchman. His father, Tony Parker Sr, was a successful player out of Chicago who found opportunity playing overseas. He would go on to date and marry Tony’s mother, Dutch model Pamela Firestone.

Born in Belgium but raised in France, TP showed basketball
ability early on and attended Paris’ National Institute for Sports and Physical Education. In an interview with NBA.com, he
detailed the beginning of his basketball odyssey.

“When I was 15, I first started playing with the national team and the best players in France that were under 17 years old,” TP said. “I thought I had a pretty good chance to play professionally in France, so I went to INSEP where all the best French players go. Boris Diaw, Mickael Pietrus, myself and Ronny Turiaf were all over there.

“Then when I was 17, I played in the Nike Hoop Summit, which is where the best European players compete against the best players in the States—Darius Miles, Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer—and I played very well at that game. So that is when I knew that maybe I had a chance in the States. At first it was a dream, but when I was 17 and played at INSEP, it became a goal. Remember, when I was young and playing, there were very few European players in the NBA, especially point guards. I told myself that I wanted to be the first European point guard to play in the NBA.”

Parker turned pro in ’99 and declared for the NBA Draft in ’01, sliding down to the last pick in the first round behind such “can’t miss” prospects as Eddie Griffin and Joe Forte. And sure, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rode him hard. Expectations have been high as hell since day one, but everything has seemed to work.

In February, Parker made his second consecutive trip to the All-Star Game, where he again showed he is among the best in the world. With per-game averages of 18.6 points and 5.5 assists per, Parker is statistically impressive, if modestly so. A true sign of Tony P’s greatness, though, is evident every time he ventures into the lane.

Think about it: despite going just 6-2, 180, the 24-year-old Parker (he’ll turn 25 during the Playoffs) gets as many layups as anyone in the League. He’s quick and fearless, so he often forces his body into spots on the floor before the defense can set up.

Parker’s propensity for going to the hole is driven home by the following stats: with two games left in the regular season, Parker was shooting 52 percent from the floor and had taken just 38 three-pointers. So yeah, Tony might speak with a French accent and smile readily, but he will go into the paint and get his points any and every way he knows how.

For more on Tony Parker, pick up SLAM 109

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  • Blue

    Last

  • Sparker

    nice, khalid. and i do bet it’s american reluctance to truly embrace a non-us player that keeps him down. or the fact that the mo-fo can’t dunk. by the way, i think a closer translation of “balance toi” would be “center yourself”

  • Blue

    Yeah…he was good when he was a threat in the paint in half and full court sets, but now he is actually decent from 3 as well. He’s damn near illegal, now.

  • Cheryl

    TP was also fortunate to have landed in the best possible situation for a rookie. That can’t be overstated. Nice one, Khalid.

  • rob stewart

    Even when you are in the perfect situation you still have to know how to handle it and work hard. It would be interesting to see Parker as MVP instead of Duncan. No one deserved MVP for the last Finals the Spurs won vs the Pistons. That was the sorriest seven game finals series ever.

  • Chukaz

    Yeah, and Tony will be called Mr. Longoria in less then a month now.

  • solly what

    Eva Sucks

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    haters….

  • Silky Slim

    I guess Tony can join the list of other NBA rappers: Shaq, Kobe, AI, Chris Webber, and Troy Hudson. Tony Touch or maybe Tony Touche, since he’s French. I think the reason why he’s not mentioned as one of the best point guards in the league is because so many other point guards are better than him. Parker is one helluva player, but he’s not one of the best, yet. When an opposing teams pg can take Parker down on the block and post him up, which forces the Spurs to double, that’s one area of his game he needs to improve. Also, he suffers from flop-itis. 40% of the league suffers from that condition. Does anyone know who started flopping in the league? I can only go as far back as Kurt Rambis (Lakers), but I’m sure there were others.

  • Chris

    mabye this whole SLAM jinx is turning around i mean 1st Lebron now Tony s*** i bet i just f***** it up

  • BallingNZ

    ^^Who would you rate above him then Silk?

    I think I’d take TP over Kidd, Hinrich, possibly even Paul.

  • http://www.myspace.com/aydreeyun Esco

    Wrong…Balance-toi is NOT center yourself! FAAAAAR FROM IT! Balance-toi is actually ‘move your waist’…or swing you hips. The motion is called ‘se balancer’ – to swing.

  • http://www.myspace.com/aydreeyun Esco

    Khalid hit it on the head with his translation. This is coming from a Frenchman.

  • BallingNZ

    In translation, it’s basically just ‘Swing’

  • http://www.myspace.com/aydreeyun Esco

    Good article…even though I utterly dislike Tony Parker, I’m so happy he decided to make that sh*tty album. More reason to hate him. *sip on my haterade*

  • http://www.myspace.com/aydreeyun Esco

    Exactly…swing yourself.

  • Holiday

    I personally think most of the younger guards are surpassing Tony in talent, you know guy’s like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, I’m not sure about Ford yet but Mo Williams among others but of course this is just an opinon!

  • Holiday

    Oh and I know Kidd is in the ladder half of his career now but I still think I would take him over Parker, and the Spurs would too I mean they tried once already!

  • Joel O’s

    TP is what he is, an unstoppable scoring PG who does what guys like Marbury, Mike James, etc. can’t: score consistently from the PG position without taking away anything from the flow of the offense. And he does it so well it complements everyone else.

  • alex

    Did you notice the good word for Michael Finley during the MVP award speech? That’s Parker’s first and outmost talent: he went to San Antonio school, sticked with it, and he learned about humility and playing basket ball.

    Duncan is Yoda.

  • mark

    Spursfan – and Parker critic. I still have issues with TP – for one – how can the PG lead the team in field goal attempts over the course of an 82 game season with TD, Manu, Finley and Bones on the floor at one time or another? All those shooters – an offence that has its focus on spacing and movement of the ball- yet TP dribbles and dribbles and dribbles. HEck how can he have more shot attempts than TD and average less points? TD should lead the team in field goal attempts – period – Parker should move the ball. I have grown to appreciate him but I will contend that many a point could be successful as a Spur =- Andre Miller, Paul, Hinrich, Billups, — well just about anyone not named Smush or Stephon.

  • Paris’Magic

    Tony is not my favourite french basketball player (I do like Gelabale, Diaw and Batum, the future great french star in the NBA), but TP’s level is just unbelievable !
    he rebounds – he dribbles – 2 seconds after he dives, lays the ball up and scors ! You can’t stop TP !

    TD is a destroyer, TP is a creator ! the perfect duo.

    Spurs are said to be boring, is TP boring ?

  • Gilbert0

    It’s difficult to come out with a player in the NBA like Parker. He is a scoring point guard like Arenas, but nothing like him. He isnt a distributor like Miller or Williams and he isnt a do everything guy like Nash. He is a somewhat unique player who is in a situation which suits his skills, playing with the most selfless star in the league. It seems to work for him and he is making the most of it. And he has got the rings to show for it, which none of the other top point guards do.

  • Gilbert0

    well, except billups

  • ForzaMilan

    damn, americans hate parker! and so do the people who commented in the game 4 live notes! he’s a lucky man, with more graces and accomplishments than most, but he deserves it all. rings, wife, rap album, finals mvp, everything. you think these guys don’t work every bit as hard as you do at their jobs?

    yes, they are paid excessively. but that’s our doing, as fans. when the watching stops, the megabuck tv deals can too.

  • Silky Slim

    I would rate Chauncey Billips, Deron Williams, Baron Davis, and Gilbert Arenas ahead of Parker. I would put Parker in the same group as Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and Chris Paul. I based my ranking on their overall game, offensively and defensively. We know Kidd is jumpshot challenged and Nash is a defensive liability. I haven’t seen enough of Paul to rate his game, but he’s a really good player.

  • mark

    Parker is not in Nash’s zip code – no way. Nash has twice the game Parker does. He can break down an entire defense – bust a three and he has ice in his veins. PArker’s defense is horrible and Nash came up with several huge defensive plays and in big games during the regular season against the Mavs. He doesn’t back down from anyone.Silkky Slim – remind me never to hire you as GM for my team –

  • http://www.myspace.com/mikebone Simmy Sosa

    For Parker not to be in Nash’s zip code he sure seems to torch the sh!t out of him every time they match up. Pretty sure Parker averaged close to 28 ppg against Phoenix. And what you fail to realize is that Tony is not a defensive liability.

  • Lo B.

    Parker is no franchise player.
    He can score, shoots better now ,but when it matters he often disappears giving the ball to guys who win games : Duncan & Gino.
    And in the Finals, he’s lucky Gibson is a defensively naive rookie.

  • MJ23K

    How can you say parker shoots too much when he shoots over 50% form the field. He can shoot all he wants if they are layups. Also if Nash is so much better than Parker why does Parker seem to get the best of him when they play head to head.

  • Rob Right

    Was TP even interviewed for this “feature”? The only line from him is from an NBA.com interview.

  • Paris’Magic

    TP and Gilbert Arenas are good friends, they are the two best players picked up in 2001… 29th and 31st… He’s only 25 ! How old is Nash ??? How rings for Nash ???

    Nash’s defense ? even when he plays soccer he doesn’t defend !

  • http://www.google.com/ David

    Choosing Tony Parker for the MVP is so right! He is the best player these days. Don’t you think that getting the MVP title is a very nice gift for his upcoming wedding on 07.07.07 (http://news.777.com/2007-02/parker-and-longoria-plan-777-wedding)?

  • dee

    exceptional point guard and a rapper…in french too

  • Heri

    Tony Parker is as French as John Amaechi is straight. American father, Dutch mother, born in Belgium…hope that helps. Arrêtez de vous mentir à vous-mêmes et de vous approprier à tout va des personnes qui n’ont pas une goutte de sang français! Hey, you still have Fred Weiss, stop whining!

  • Pais

    @Heri: well said (I suppose)

  • Heri

    Hey Pais, thanks. I basically said the Frenchies should stop pretending TP is french cause he ain’t. He may play for the national french squad but he just ain’t french, simple as that.

  • saroumane

    @heri: well, TP learnt to play basketball in France. and how do you explain the french flag when he received the MVP?

  • Romeo

    I see only Nash ahead of TP. Nash is the superstar of its team, the guy you can rely on, TP is not here yet. However, he is still in progress and already better than Paul, Williams, Kidd, Billups. The only worthy test: compare the stats of TP with these PGs when they play against each other. TP crashes them anytime.

  • Paris’Magic

    And Tim Duncan isn’t american…

    are you for the White America ? You seem to dislike immigration… Tony is French, his heart is French, he was born in Belgium but didn’t stay there longger ! He feels him as a french boy since his childhood.

    On s’en fout d’où vient le sang qui coule dans tes veines, ce qui compte c’est que tu aimes ton pays !

    It reminds me who Mary Pierce was unfairly seen in France : as a french champion in case of victory, but when she didn’t play well she wasn’t french. When Tony is great you consider he’s not french, when he struggles he is…

    je torche ce que j’écris mais comme y’a que des francophones ici !

  • Heri

    Tu ne m’as pas compris Paris. Il n’y a aucun racisme derrière mes propos. Comme tu le dis, ce qui m’énerve ce que les médias français ont tendance à souligner qu’un joueur comme Parker est français lorsqu’il brille et à l’omettre lorsqu’il foire. Les Etats-Unis sont un pays né de l’immigration, ce n’est pas le cas de la France, il existe un peuple français! C’est juste que je n’arrive pas à comprendre la fierté que vous pouvez éprouver à vous dire qu’il est français, alors que pas un seul des ses ancêtres ne l’est. C’est vrai que lui au moins il parle parfaitement français (Pierce, Trezeguet,…). A ce moment là, naturalisez LeBron, Kobe, Shaq, Kidd et Duncan et la France sera championne du monde. A ce sujet, et c’est véridique, j’ai vu il n’y a pas longtemps une interview d’Eva Longoria, on lui demandait comment elle avait rencontré Tony. Elle a répondu dans les vestiaires après un match et qu’il lui avait dit qu’il était belge!! Tu te rends compte, même lui, apparemment, ne se sent pas tout à fait français.

  • Paris’Magic

    T’es d’où Heri ? – Tu le connais mal le Tony ! je le suis depuis qu’il a signé au PSG (et oui, à l’époque c’était le PSG omnisport, la belle époque allait bientôt prendre fin), il est très attaché à l’équipe de France et à la France, certes il a plusieurs cultures, mais sa situation n’est pas la même que Trézéguet, mon joueur préféré d’ailleurs, qui est né à Rouen où son père jouait, et est revenu en France, et même à Monaco en réalité (!) à l’âge de 16 ans en ne parlant qu’Espagnol. David Trézéguet est français par le droit du sol (même si ses ancêtes du côté de son père étaient des immigrés français en Argentine, ce qui fait qu’il avait du sang français) alors que TP est français par naturalisation, ce qui implique une démarche volontaire et personnelle. On ne l’a pas naturalisé pour qu’il nous rapporte des médailles, comme Tatiana Golovin ou Nikola Karabatic (handball), à la différence de Pi Hongyang (badminton) par exemple. De plus ses amis sont français, ses frères le sont aussi, il a grandi en Normandie puis dans la région parisienne, c’est un pur produit de l’INSEP… sa mère vit toujours à Paris.
    Il a une double culture, c’est sans doute pour ça qu’il a si bien et si vite réussi aux USA, d’autant que Pop est un des entraîneurs les plus “européens” dans le style de toute la NBA.

    Higuain, le jeune du Réal était dans la même situation que Trézéguet, mais il a choisi l’Argentine, choix que tout le monde respecte pour la simple et bonne raison qu’il se sent argentin.

    Quand je vois qu’on prend le fraîchement naturalisé (pour libérer une place d’étranger à Nancy) Tarik Kirksay, en équipe de France au lieu de Gélabale, qui est un super joueur, un gros défenseur et un joueur du 5 majeur habituel très adapté au jeu européen, ça me chagrine, je trouve ça injuste.

    Les médias français sont en majorité des buses, ils sont trop peu nombreux, il n’y a pas assez de pluralisme en matière d’info sportive, il y a un seul quotidien sportif qui fait la pluie et le beau temps (l’équipe), et une seule radio qui parle vraiment sport (RMC, où Tony a son émission tous les lundis soir pendant la saison régulière).

    La France est le pays au monde qui a le plus été construit sur l’immigration (je ne suis pas le meilleur exemple puisque j’ai trace d’ancêtres en France depuis le début du 17ème siècle): depuis 2000 ans ont a eu successivement les invasions des Romains, les invasions des Francs et autres peuplades barbares, des arabes venus du sud, des anglais, des allemands,… les vagues d’immigration polonaise et russe, italienne, portugaise, les réfugiés politiques espagnols, sans oublier les immigrés des anciennes colonies d’Afrique noire, d’Afrique du nord et même d’Indochine, les pieds-noirs et les harkis, sans oublier les DOM-TOM ! on a même actuellement des milliers d’immigrés qui entrent chaque année à Mayotte et en Guyane pour que leurs enfants naissent français ! maintenant on a plein de chinois qui arrivent.
    On vit une époque où l’intégration est difficile, où on acceuille du monde sans avoir intégré correctement les enfants d’immigrés des générations précédentes. Tony est un exemple de volonté, d’intégration et de réussite, on ne va pas s’en priver !

    Pour finir je vais dire un mot sur Rusedsky, pour les Anglais il n’était des leurs que quand il gagnait, le reste du temps il était canadien. C’est partout pareil !

    SORRY FOR WRITING IN FRENCH, BUT MY FRENCH IS HUGELY BETTER THAN MY ENGLISH ! ;-)

  • P.Nitty

    English Mu-fukkas English!!! And go get me some D batteries too….

    P.S.- 18 points a game @ a 52% clip. Find a non-center anywhere, any-LEAGUE with those numbers, end of story.

  • Holiday

    Whoa whoa whoa, let’s not get racist here it don’t matter were came from or were you learned to play if your good your good and overall Tony might just be better then Nash, Might be! It really dosen’t matter guy’s all that matter’s is America is the greatest country in the world! all I wanna know is when is Tony gonna bust out that Eva tape, ya know what I’m talking about!

  • young muggsy

    Don’t see why there are so many posts hating on the finals MVP. Parker is the best in the league at driving to the hoop, few players can stay infront of him.

  • Holiday

    I don’t know about that, he’s good but come on now! Besides Deron Williams is the best point guard in the league, sure Nash is real good but can’t defend to well, and Kidd is getting old but I won’t count him out, now who else? Tony is up there but I think D-Will has him beat and the Hornets can have Chris Paul! If you count Arenas as a pg he’s up there, but not really a passer, oh and Billups I forgot!

  • Holiday

    And Roy’s on his way up!

  • http://none none

    Deron Williams averaged better and played better than parker in the conference finals, too bad williams did not get the support. I think Williams is the future PG of the league.

  • Paris’Magic

    In the conference finals Williams and Boozer were the only Jazz to play ! Their teammates were non-existent ! Deron Williams’ points and assists averages are better then Tony’s, but he was unable to push his team up. Game 5 : TP 21/5/5 – D. Williams 11/3/2…

    You don’t care if one player scores a lot if you stop the rest of the team: this is Spurs’s defense.

  • JoeGym
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