Au Revoir: Tony Parker Retires After 18 NBA Seasons
San Antonio Spurs‘ great and France’s basketball hero Tony Parker confirmed on Monday afternoon via Twitter that he is officially retiring from playing professional basketball after having spent 18 historic seasons in the NBA.
Parker, 37, announced via his official Twitter account that he is retiring from basketball after spending the 2019-20 season as the backup point guard for the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets. He spent the previous 17 years of his career with the Spurs.
“It’s with a lot of emotion that I retire from basketball, it was an incredible journey! Even in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would live all those unbelievable moments with the NBA and the French National Team. Thank you for everything,” Parker tweeted.
In an interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Parker revealed that it took a long time for him to contemplate about his decision and that his feeling about not playing competitive basketball anymore boldly helped him from leaving the league.
“A lot of different stuff ultimately led me to this decision. But, at the end of the day, I was like, if I can’t be Tony Parker anymore and I can’t play for a championship, I don’t want to play basketball anymore.”
After getting drafted by San Antonio with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker was quickly inserted as a starter into the Spurs’ lineup just two years later to become the youngest starting point guard in NBA history—all while forming a renowned trio with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
San Antonio’s Son
Coming in as a young, skinny 19-year-old, Parker’s revelation to the city of San Antonio in the early 2000’s was not as easy as he would have ever imagined as he took the hard road in taking over as the Spurs’ starting point guard.
With no definite point guard for the Spurs back then, only relying with Duncan and David Robinson‘s ‘Twin Tower’ dominance, Parker assumed leadership as a floor general for Gregg Popovich‘s team in 2003; and, in just his first year as a starter, San Antonio have gone winning their second Larry O’ Brien trophy—the first of Parker’s four overall.
As years passed by, Parker developed from being a kid to becoming a full-grown, bearded man, often entrusted to sit at the sidelines drawing the Spurs’ game-winning plays and leading his teammates.
“It’s home. I arrived here 19 years old and they embraced me. They treated me like their son, and it’s always gonna be home. It is family.
“When I came back, I still remember the day, Jan. 14, when I came back with the Hornets, it was unbelievable the love that they showed through that game. I felt like my jersey was being retired. It was unbelievable.”
In all fairness, Parker’s growth and development over the last two decades or so saw him at the forefront of the Spurs’ offensive evolution—from the days of relying on Duncan and Robinson’s dominance inside the paint up to the fast-paced, high-octane ball passing movement that is so often widely regarded as the ‘Beautiful Game.’
It is no surprise that Parker finished his career among the top of the rankings of all-time Spurs’ greats, statistically speaking.
Parker’s career averages of 15.5 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.7 rebounds is not as impressive as opposed to the other star point guards of his era–e.g. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash–but he, nevertheless, made a case for himself to be named as a future Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
After playing for a total of 1,254 games, Parker appeared in six NBA All-Star teams and won four championship titles, the last being in 2014 when the Spurs met LeBron James’ defending champion Miami Heat.
In 2007, Parker was named as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player after leading San Antonio to an overwhelming sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the first ever European to win a Finals MVP honors.
“My career was better than any dream that I had when I was a kid. When I first arrived in NBA, I was like, ‘Man, if I can be a good little player, be a good backup, I’ll be happy with that.’
“I was just happy to be in the NBA. I never thought I’ll be a starter or be the youngest point guard to start in the NBA or the first European to be NBA Finals MVP. I never dreamed about that,” Parker, who also ranks as the seventh best player with most wins in NBA history with 892, said.
Parker, the Spurs’ all-time leader in assists (6,829), has never missed a single year without a playoffs appearance until last season.
In 17 years, Parker engraved himself as one of the only four players in NBA Playoffs history to post 4,000+ points and 1,000+ assists in the post-season, joining Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant—all while also becoming the league’s ninth best playoffs scorer with 4,045 points scored.
Parker’s influence in the international basketball scene far extends beyond being just a foreigner in the NBA.
As one of the early products of the Spurs’ front office’s international roster, Parker revolutionized the way other basketball players, particularly from France, go into the league.
In fact, after winning the title in 2014, Parker had become more engaged and active in fostering international play in the NBA as it continuously evolves from being a domestic league to being a global one.
“I hope that I had a good impact with Dirk [Nowitzki] and Pau [Gasol]. After we arrived, it exploded. Now you have more than 80 international players, 12 French guys in the NBA. So I always took it seriously, my role of being a good ambassador for French basketball,”
Now, all the more, as Parker looks to enjoy life after basketball, he re-focuses his love for the game as the owner of one of the best men and women’s French basketball clubs, ASVEL, which will enter the EuroLeague next year.
“Right now, I’m focusing on ASVEL and having a great experience. We’re building a new arena right now and we’re gonna enter the EuroLeague, and the EuroLeague is growing very fast. But the ultimate is to be one day an owner in the NBA.
“I definitely have the experience, and I love doing it. It takes a lot of work, but I love it.”
Expect another jersey retirement ceremony in Alamo City soon.
Follow the writer on Twitter: @KristoffBellen.