Here’s the intro section to a story I wrote this week for The Japan Times:
Tony Parker reflects on great career in Tokyo visit
By Ed Odeven
The San Antonio Spurs were synonymous with winning during Tony Parker’s illustrious NBA career, appearing in five NBA Finals and capturing four titles.
They never finished below .500 during any of the iconic point guard’s 17 seasons in a Spurs uniform — and never had a lower winning percentage than .573, in 2017-18, his final San Antonio season.
By all accounts, Parker played to win and fit in perfectly with the Spurs. He retired in June after one season with the Charlotte Hornets.
The 37-year-old still keeps busy. He’s the owner and president of the French League’s ASVEL, a Lyon-based organization. This fall, he also opened an academy bearing his name (Tony Parker Adéquat Academy) in Lyon, which serves as a training center for ASVEL’s men’s and women’s pro teams, and a facility for students 15 and older to pursue opportunities in sports, music and other subjects.
This week, Parker arrived in Japan for an NBA promotional visit through the weekend, with opportunities to interact with fans and conduct a few interviews, too. He attended a U2 rock concert on Wednesday at Saitama Super Arena, where he met movie star Brad Pitt.
Around noon on Thursday, Parker, who grew up in France, confirmed that playing basketball isn’t a regular part of his current physical fitness regimen. Instead, he plays tennis at least three times a week.
“I can definitely play. I can hit the ball and stuff like that, because I’ve been playing every vacation,” said Parker, who cited Roger Federer as his favorite tennis player because he plays the game “so smooth,” a phrase he suggested describes how he played hoops.
He added: “Every summer, I don’t play basketball. I’ll play different sports, especially tennis and volleyball.”
When the question of how he hopes to be remembered as a player was delivered, Parker highlighted the chief ingredients of the Spurs’ sustained excellence.
“Well, the most proud thing that I loved about the Spurs is we did it the right way and we were very professional and we handled ourselves professionally and that’s the thing that I loved the most: we play as a team and we stick together,” said Parker, who was selected by the Spurs with the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. By doing so, they continued assembling their celebrated Big Three (along with fellow future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, who arrived in ’97, and Manu Ginobili, who made his Spurs debut in 2002).
Parker, a six-time All-Star, owns career averages of 15.5 points and 5.6 assists per game. The Spurs retired his No. 9 jersey, which he wore for 1,254 regular-season games, on Nov. 11. Speaking nearly a month later in Tokyo, Parker called it a “surreal” experience.
“Because I never thought growing up I can have something like that,” he admitted. “I always dreamt about the NBA and wanted to play in the NBA, but my career was better than every dream that I had. It just surpassed everything. It was just an unbelievable journey, and I feel very grateful and very blessed.”