Tony Parker admits he was ‘hurt’ when Gregg Popovich didn’t show up for his Summer League debut
The San Antonio Spurs showed Tony Parker some tough love — or whatever you want to call it — during the Frenchman’s rookie season. In fact, the team’s best player, Tim Duncan, and its head coach, Gregg Popovich, didn’t utter a word to the young point guard for his first at year in San Antonio.
At 20, Parker was drafted no. 28 overall by the Spurs in the 2001 NBA Draft. Apparently, Popovich wasn’t thrilled about the selection based on the guard’s pre-draft workout.
“After the draft, I participated in the Summer League in Salt Lake City. Only Mike Brown, the assistant coach, was there. Pop hadn’t come. It was my first game. We arrived. We warmed up, and then—I’ll remember this forever—I went to see Mike Brown.
‘Mike, why isn’t Pop in the bleachers?’
I have to admit that I was hurt. I was his team’s future point guard, and the coach didn’t even bother to see me play in my first Summer League game. I told myself I was going to nail it for that first game.
I scored 29 points and had eight assists. Later on, Mike Brown would tell me that after the game, he called Pop and said, ‘We have found our point guard for the next 15 years. You absolutely have to come see him play in Salt Lake.’
The day of the next game, while I was warming up, who did I see in the bleachers? Pop! I looked at Mike Brown, satisfied, kind of smiling. ‘Oh, he decided to come after all.’ After Mike’s phone call, Pop came right away and understood that he would have me play immediately, without waiting one or two seasons for me to be ready. He had to come and see me play for himself.
Everything went well that entire week in Salt Lake. I was the best point guard in the Summer League.”
Clearly, Parker responded impressively to the tough treatment from his team with his play on the court. He immediately exceeded expectations, earning the starting point guard spot on the championship-contending squad after a handful of games.
The rest was history, of course. Parker would make six All-Star teams and win four titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014) for Gregg Popovich, earning 2007 Finals MVP honors. Over 17 seasons in San Antonio, Parker averaged 15.8 points and 5.7 assists per game on 49.1% shooting, and consistently saved his best hoops for the playoffs (17.9 PPG for his career).
Accordingly, the relationship between Parker and Gregg Popovich soon formed into a deep bond.
Parker played 56 games for the Charlotte Hornets in the 2018-19 season before announcing his retirement.