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For a time, the San Antonio Spurs made a habit of finding undervalued foreign talents and polishing them into diamonds, and Tony Parker remains one of the finest examples of their approach.

The Spurs selected Parker, an unknown and undersized French point guard, with the No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft. He became one of the pillars of San Antonio’s decade-spanning dynasty and was voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on his first ballot as a member of a star-studded 2023 class.

To honor Parker’s entry into the HOF, here are the five moments, listed chronologically, that helped define the floor general’s 18-year NBA career due to their impressive nature and ability to stick around in the collective basketball consciousness.

1. Tony Parker’s historic rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs

At first glance, Tony Parker’s raw numbers as an NBA rookie don’t look like much. He averaged 9.2 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game.

But the context surrounding those stats makes them more significant.

Parker paved the way for the likes of Victor Wembanyama as the third French-born player to ever play in an NBA game, and he became the first foreign guard to make the All-Rookie First Team. Plus, the fact he earned head coach Gregg Popovich’s trust so early was a key sign that he was capable of special things. 

2. Tony Parker’s star turn in the 2007 NBA Finals

By the time the San Antonio Spurs made it to the 2007 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Parker had become a vital contributor who had two All-Star appearances under his belt.

Going against LeBron James for the first of many postseason bouts, the point guard played exceptionally well. As the Spurs swept the Cavs for their third championship in five years, Parker averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while shooting 56.8% from the field and 57.1% from three-point range. His exploits made him the first Spur not named Tim Duncan to win Finals MVP. 

3. The double-nickel game

Parker continued to progress and made a real statement at the beginning of the 2008-09 season.

San Antonio lost its first three games of the season, but Parker got the team back on course with a dominant display, putting up a career-high 55 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in an epic 129-125 double-overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the highest-scoring game from a Spurs player since David Robinson scored 71 points in 1994 and remains the fourth-highest tally in franchise history:

  • David Robinson: 71 points on April 24, 1994
  • George Gervin: 63 points on April 9, 1978
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 56 points on January 10, 2019
  • Tony Parker: 55 points on November 5, 2008
  • George Gervin: 55 points on January 23, 1980

Parker earned a spot on an All-NBA team for the first time in his career, but the season ended in frustration for the Spurs. They lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000. 

4. Tony Parker knocks down a Finals dagger

According to Yahoo, Parker promised Tim Duncan that the Spurs would return to the Finals again after losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. They did just that the next year, once again facing off against LeBron James, this time as a member of the Miami Heat. 

Game 1 came down to the wire.

With less than 20 seconds on the clock, the Spurs had a two-point lead and the ball with the chance to put the game to bed. Their final possession was, to be blunt, a total disaster. Two pick-and-roll attempts left Parker with Chris Bosh towering over him on a switch.

Parker nearly lost the ball in the corner, where James swooped in to crowd his space, then fell to one knee after slipping on the court. As James later said of the play, per USA Today, “Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession. That was the longest 24 seconds that I’ve been a part of.”

As the shot clock expired, Parker got up, spun around, and banked in an improbable shot to put San Antonio up 92-88 with five seconds left. It was the culmination of a great fourth quarter for the guard, who scored 10 of his 21 points in those final 12 minutes.

The Spurs won Game 1 but lost the classic series in seven games. 

5. Tony Parker helps the San Antonio Spurs earn redemption in the 2014 NBA Finals

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San Antonio got its revenge the next year, winning its fifth NBA title in five games.

Kawhi Leonard rightly earned Finals MVP and received most of the plaudits for his performance, but Parker averaged 18.0 points and 4.6 assists in the series and played a big role in the clinching win. He scored 16 points in the final 12:16 as the Spurs sealed their title with a 104-87 victory.