Growing up in France, Spurs icon Tony Parker never dreamed that his jersey would be retired by an NBA team. Prior to Monday night’s emotional jersey retirement ceremony, Parker called the honor “surreal” while reflecting on a professional basketball career that tipped off in Paris when he was a teenager.
“My favorite moments, obviously the four championships with the Spurs and the gold medal with the [French] national team,” Parker told the Current. “It was the first time in their history. For me, at the end of the day, that’s what I was playing basketball for. It was to win championships, and that’s all I care about.”
At shootaround, longtime Parker back up Patty Mills expressed anticipation at seeing Parker’s number 9 join Tim Duncan’s number 21 and Manu Ginobili’s number 20 in the AT&T Center rafters alongside the championship banners Parker helped secure.
“That’s a goose bumps-feeling situation,” Mills told reporters. “It’s pretty special. It’s special to be one of their teammates. It’s special to win a championship with all three.”
An anticlimactic 109-113 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies did little to deaden spirits inside the arena, where Spurs legends took turns celebrating Parker’s legacy. David Robinson lauded Parker’s courage and fortitude, calling him a “teammate for life.” Duncan made it a point to neither confirm nor deny that he didn’t speak to Parker through the first year of his NBA career. He called Parker “the hardest-coached individual of anybody I’ve seen in this entire program.”
The loudest cheers of the evening were reserved for Manu Ginobili, who fondly recalled the 15 years he and Parker shared the backcourt.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Ginobili said. “You had it very tough. I had it pretty tough too, probably not as much as you. But you know what? I always think that having each other’s pat on the back afterwards really kept us together.”
In what ultimately turned into a bittersweet celebration of San Antonio’s dynastic Big Three, Parker closed the evening by transporting fans to a simpler time with one last request.
“Can I ask for a last favor before I go?” Parker queried. “Just imagine we’re in the Dome. I was 19. We’re playing the Lakers, and it’s Kobe and Shaq. I want a big ‘Go Spurs Go’ on three. Can we do it one more last time for me. One more last time all together.”
In what was likely the last time to collectively acknowledge Parker and San Antonio’s iconic trio — at least until the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield beckons — the crowd roared.
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