SAN ANTONIO – Spurs legend Tony Parker joined host Ryen Russillo on his Ringer podcast recently to discuss the release of his new autobiography “Tony Parker: Beyond All of My Dreams,” and to share details of his days playing with the Spurs.
The podcast began with a story of how Parker almost did not become a Spurs player.
Parker said on draft night, he and his father were told Boston was drafting Parker with the No. 21 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
According to Parker, an NBA representative said “the Celtics are going to draft you, here is the (Celtics) cap.” Parker added, “I held the cap for like 45 seconds, and then they came back and said, ‘Oh no, they aren’t going to draft you. They changed their mind.’”
Parker said it was a whirlwind moment and he did not know how to react. He slipped to No. 28 and was selected by the Spurs.
Parker said he was told the Celtics reversed course because legendary coach and front office executive Red Auerbach wanted Boston to take a North Carolina player due to the their relationship with the Tarheels program. Boston ended up selecting forward Joe Forte at No. 21.
Before the draft, Parker had won over Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and then 24-year-old scout Sam Presti.
Buford and Presti, who is currently the general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, saw Parker play in the French league.
While Buford and Presti were convinced of Parker’s abilities, winning over Gregg Popovich was an entirely different story.
Parker said Popovich was initially against the idea of drafting a European point guard, but Buford and Presti convinced Popovich to conduct a private workout for Parker.
Parker said he was awful during the first workout, but was given a second opportunity to impress Popovich and by then, the Spurs told Parker they would select him if they had the opportunity.
Parker said his first year in San Antonio was challenging.
He was 19-years-old and despite his youth, Popovich was extremely hard on him throughout the season, but trusted him enough to start him for the majority of the regular season.
Parker said he was motivated by Popovich’s tough love and it made want to get better in every part of his game.
When it came to Tim Duncan, Parker said the iconic Spurs forward did not talk to him throughout his entire rookie season until Parker proved his mettle in the 2002 playoffs.
“The first time he talked to me was after I had a good series against Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics,” Parker said. “I played well in that series and Gary was one of the best. Timmy saw that if I can play like that against Gary, then I can play like that against anybody and that gave me confidence.”
Parker said that’s what made Duncan a great leader, he never took a night off and demanded the best from his teammates.
But it was not only Duncan, Parker said he had to prove himself to the entire team and coaching staff.
“After that summer is when I saw the difference with Timmy and even most of my teammates. They were like OK, we can go to war with him,” said Parker.
In the podcast, Parker also discussed the success of the Spurs’ Big 3, becoming the first European-born player to be selected as the NBA Finals MVP, the toughest guards he faced and the incredible relationship the Spurs have with the fans and city of San Antonio.
He said the Big 3 wanted to stay together in San Antonio even if it meant taking lower salaries because “you just feel it, you have something special.”
Russillo asked Parker what was the Spurs worse loss during his time in San Antonio and Parker did not hesitate to say it was Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals when San Antonio was on the brink of winning its fifth championship.
Parker said that loss hurt much more than the Derek Fisher 0.4 shot in the 2004 playoffs, but it made the 2014 title that much more satisfying.
Russillo also asked Parker about the end of the Kawhi Leonard era in San Antonio.
He framed the question by asking what it was like to watch a player go the opposite direction of the team-first culture the Spurs had built with the Big 3 and Popovich.
“Everybody is different. I only have good stuff to say about Kawhi. I had great years with him,” said Parker. “We were playing unbelievable together. We won a championship. I feel very blessed that I played with him all those years because he was very good for us. He decided to do something else and that’s everybody’s right.”
Parker retired after the 2018-19 season and his No. 9 Spurs jersey now hangs in the rafters of the AT&T Center.
The book is described as a candid, conversational memoir that “takes fans on a whirlwind tour which includes Parker’s early life in France, his four NBA championships with the Spurs, and countless memorable interactions with luminaries like Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. It also includes insights on more personal matters and unique challenges Parker faced.”