NBA 50 Greatest Players: Tony Parker (#43)
Tony Parker is often over looked as one of the greatest NBA players due to being over shadowed by Tim Duncan, and whilst I’m not suggestion that Tim Duncan is not a huge reason for Parker’s success, it would be completely idiotic to discredit everything Parker has done in his career based off the good fortune of being paired with the greatest Power Forward that has ever played the game. Parker is a 3 time NBA champion (03, 05, 07), and was finals MVP in 2007. He’s been selected to the all-star game 6 times, and has been voted to the all-NBA 2nd the last two seasons, and 3rd team once (2009).
His scoring actually increases in the playoffs (nearly 2 points per game higher than the regular season) and his team, yes along with Duncan and Ginobili, have historically done very well in the playoffs (The Spurs have only failed to get out of the first round twice in his 11 seasons in the NBA). In my opinion, there hasn’t been a guy 6’2 or under that is better at finishing around the basket than Parker, and he has added to his game every single year to compliment his incredible footwork. In his first 4 seasons in the NBA, he averaged nearly 2.8 3-pointers per game, and wasn’t even hitting one per game. Once he focused more on driving and pulling up from mid-range, his stat line has been 19 PPG, 6.5 APG and 51% FG shooting over an 8 season period (including this season, of course)
Does Duncan hurt or help Parker’s legacy?
I touched on this earlier, but I need to elaborate on this further. A huge part of Parker’s resume has been the team success that he has enjoyed in San Antonio, and Duncan has been the centrepiece (at least defensively) of those Spurs’ teams. So the question is do we dismiss the entire team success element? Absolutely not. Look, Parker and Duncan (and Ginobili, these guys are a trio) are inseparable. Was Tim Duncan (or has, they’re still going) more important to San Antonio winning 3 titles in 5 seasons? No question, and it’s a bigger feather in his cap. But Parker’s role is similar to that of Kobe when he was with Shaq, or Pippen alongside Jordan. Duncan, Shaq and Jordan were all given more kudos than Parker, Kobe and Pippen, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the contributions of those (for lack of a better term) role players. There have been plenty of players in similar positions to Tony Parker (Kevin Johnson, John Stockton, Steve Nash etc.) and they haven’t won a championship either. Parker has 3.
Think about that for a second. And also keep in mind that The Spurs were literally one defensive rebound or made FT away from their 5th championship, and Parker’s 4th. It mildly disturbs (but certainly doesn’t surprise me) that the major media outlets refuse to even mention Parker’s torn hamstring in retrospect when looking at the 2013 NBA Finals, and yet they (ESPN mainly) spend all week discussing and dissecting the colour of LeBron’s facemask recently. That Parker injury in game 3 was significant, as he went from 25/10/4 on 54% shooting against Mike Conley and the Grizzlies in the conference finals to 16/7/2 on 41% shooting. Yes, I’m aware Memphis and Miami are different teams, but Conley is better than Chalmers, and the Grizzlies have Marc Gasol (who was the defensive player of the year last season) protecting the rim. Sure, Miami could have put LeBron on Parker to try to slow him down. But remember this: The last time The Spurs made the finals was in 2007 against the Cavs, when LeBron was still there. Parker absolutely tore up James and the Cavs (25 ppg on 57% shooting) en route to his finals MVP. Could James have done a better job on Parker this time around? Sure. But a healthy Parker and San Antonio wins that series in 5 or 6 games, with Danny Green and Leonard continuing to get open looks after The Heats defence collapses after Parker gets into the lane. If we’re going to put an asterisk next to Parker’s career for playing with Duncan, then we should put one next to Miami’s championship last year too as well.
Allen Iverson vs Tony Parker
Both these guys have lightning quickness and are fearless, and it’s fascinating to wonder if they swapped teams how good their teams would have been. Iverson would have been in a dream situation with Duncan playing point forward from the post and being surrounded by all those shooters. Parker on the other hand, I think he could have put together one or two Iverson-like seasons together in Philly, but I don’t think he could’ve sustained an entire career with that kind of offensive burden on his shoulders, and that’s really not an insult to Parker because very few players in league history have been able to do what Iverson did in Philadelphia. This argument is changing shape as The Spurs continue to become Tony Parker’s team on the offensive end. I’d still take Iverson with no hesitation, but if Parker has another playoff run like he had last season and gets back to the finals with this aging team, this becomes a legitimate debate. But for now, Tony Parker is the 43rd greatest NBA player of the 3 point era, which is ahead of Chris Paul, Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson and Tim Hardaway.
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