It still hasn’t quite sunk in. Tony Parker’s NBA career isn’t over but he won’t be playing with the San Antonio Spurs this upcoming season.
While this offseason has provided a lot of drama, it’s at least nice to have this moment where the Spurs and their fans can say goodbye to a legend on good terms.
The franchise has been incredibly gracious in tributes to four-time champion Tony Parker, who will no doubt have his jersey retired at the AT&T Center one day.
But we’re here to look back on the thrills that Parker provided the fans.
Although he didn’t have a lot of buzzer-beaters because Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were so clutch, and he didn’t always put up gaudy scoring numbers because of the way the Spurs offense was functioned to work around him, even when he was their No. 1 player, Parker still gave us some incredible moments.
So join us as we look back on our favorites in this, the Top 10 plays of Tony Parker’s NBA career:
Don’t let the contrast of the bigs around him fool you, Tony Parker always had plenty of hops to dunk, he just never did because it wasn’t the best use of his energy and he rarely had the opportunity. Still, whenever it happened, it was a spectacle.
For a long time, Tony Parker was the best point guard in the NBA, and his combination of top speed and excellent handles made for a deadly crossover as Iman Shumpert and even Steve Nash in his prime can attest. But my favorite was when he absolutely undressed his countryman, Leandro Barbosa, on this play.
The last of the honorable mentions goes to this crazy game-winner from 2003. Toward the end of the season, the Spurs were closing in on the Dallas Mavericks for the No. 1 seed. (Man, remember when the Mavs were good?) In OT at Dallas, Parker hit a game-winner over two seven-footers, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Bradley.
The Spurs would go on to take the No. 1 seed and win their second title that season.
On to the Top 10!
10. Behind the back to Bowen
It didn’t take long for young Tony Parker to make his mark with the Spurs. In 2003, Parker was the starting point guard and not only playing big minutes, but playing well against Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers. In Game 5, with the series tied 2-2, Parker shined, scoring 21 points in 36 minutes.
He also dished out three assists, including this behind-the-back beauty to fool Kobe Bryant and give Bruce Bowen a big dunk.
9. Psychic pass to LaMarcus
In Game 2 of the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals, the Oklahoma City Thunder were trying to hang on to a lead in San Antonio in the in the final minute.
The Spurs had to make something happen with 30 seconds left and somehow, Tony Parker pulls off this: a no-look swing pass past two defenders to set up LaMarcus Aldridge for a three-pointer.
How? Just… how?
This is something that Manu does a lot. His court awareness on such a high level that he doesn’t even need to see a passing lane to execute a perfect delivery. Somehow, Tony Parker pulled this off to perfection.
8. Circus shot vs. Warriors
The Spurs’ 2013 playoff series against the Golden State Warriors is going to be more known for Manu’s heroics in Game 1. But Tony Parker was the one that carried the team to victory in that series, averaging more than 22 points on 42.6 percent shooting, including shooting 45.5 percent from three.
But this play shows how much magic he had with him in the series.
After taking a foul from Draymond Green, Parker flipped a circus shot up at the basket and it went down. No way were the Spurs losing with shots like that falling.
7. Wild buzzer-beater
In a January game against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, the Spurs were having trouble closing the game. But at least they found themselves with the ball for one final possession to win it.
As it usually goes, Tony Parker created a great opportunity for Manu Ginobili. But on this rare occasion, Manu missed. Thankfully, Parker was there for the rebound and tossed up a prayer that was answered for the win.
To the heavens it traveled, and to the basket it returned… for victory.
6. Reverse to Duncan
Narratives fade over time. As the years go on, people forget the story of each team going into a playoff series and only remember the final score or just the final series tally.
Going into the 2014 NBA Western Conference Semifinal matchup between the Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, a narrative had emerged that Damian Lillard was so good (after beating a Rockets team that couldn’t play defense) that they had a legit chance at knocking the Silver & Black out of the playoffs.
The Spurs shut that story down quickly, thoroughly dismantling Portland in five games with Tony Parker outplaying Lillard the whole way.
Parker scored 33 points in the series opener and dished out nine assists, including this no-look pass to Tim Duncan that showed that the Spurs were on another level that Portland just couldn’t match.
5. Owning DeJuan Blair
2014 was an incredible year for the NBA playoffs. Five first-round matchups went to seven games, including the Spurs and Mavs. Former Spur DeJuan Blair somehow took centerstage.
Game 7 was Parker’s revenge as he was dominant from the start. During a first quarter possession, Parker beat Blair for a bucket and immediately got into Blair’s face, letting him know that this was going to be his game and Blair’s season would soon be over.
It’s maybe the most glorious technical ever committed by a Spurs player on the court. Even though the Mavs got a free throw, it fired up the team and crowd, and the Spurs won Game 7 in dominant fashion.
4. Opener and Winner
I can’t think of a better season opener than the one the Spurs had to start the 2012-2013 season.
After getting eliminated by the Thunder in the previous playoffs in the conference finals, the Spurs hosted OKC to start the season and Tony Parker hit one of the best game-winners of his career when he found himself wide open after Russell Westbrook missed yet another defensive assignment.
3. Champion and King
Very few people can claim to be better than LeBron James during a seven-game playoff series during any point in his career. Tony Parker can.
During the 2007 NBA Finals, the Spurs took on James in his first (OF NINE!... AND COUNTING!) NBA Finals. The Cavs decided that they weren’t going to let three-time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan beat them, so they dedicated two and sometimes three defenders to stopping him and making someone else beat them.
The Spurs’ answer was Parker, and he carried the team to a sweep and claimed an MVP after it was all over.
As easy as it sounds for any player to do that, the strategy has worked in the past on other teams. But Parker didn’t just answer, he thrived on that challenge.
Tony finished the series averaging 24.5 points per game (LeBron averaged just 22) on a ridiculous 56.8 percent shooting (LeBron shot 35.6 percent) and was the easy choice for MVP.
2. Beating LeBron in Miami
The 2013 NBA Finals was an incredible series between two ongoing dynasties, which rarely happens in the modern era.
At the end of Game 1, the Spurs were clinging to a two-point lead and Miami was playing lock-down defense. With time running off the shot clock and Parker having to create something on his own while being guarded by James, he put up a shot that just got off in time to seal the victory.
Parker scored 10 of his 21 points in a fourth quarter that was close the whole way.
“It was a crazy play. I thought I lost the ball like three or four times,” he said after the game.
Even though the Spurs went on to lose the series, that wasn’t the end of the story. Speaking of which…
1. Parker Closes Out Title No. 4
Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals was quite the catharsis. In the rematch of the previous year’s championship series, the Spurs played amazing team basketball that had become their signature style. And to do it against a team as stacked as the Heat made it all the more impressive.
Parker had a good series, but he shined when the Spurs needed him the most. As Miami tried to make one last run at extending the series in the 4th quarter of Game 5, Parker got hot, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the final frame on 6-7 shooting.
As a friend of mine put it so memorably that night:
“Everyone thinks the party’s almost over, and then Tony Parker shows up with another keg.”
He wasn’t the MVP, but he was the closer that the Spurs needed.