With the news last week that Tony Parker had signed with the Hornets, its been an emotional time for me. Objectively, it was likely a good move for the Spurs just because Tony is not the player he used to be. However, thinking like that makes me feel like I took him for granted back when he was one of the top PG’s in the league. Plus it sucks that Spurs fans didn’t get to really give him a proper sendoff. I mean Manu had a sendoff in the 2017 playoffs (and justifiably so) because we didn’t know if he was gonna come back and he played another year. But Tony….this was such a sudden move and I don’t think Spurs fans really expected it. And worst of all, I hate how Kawhi Leonard and his people have made it seem like Tony Parker was the cause of all of this nonsense going on with him.
Well here is my sendoff for Tony Parker. I wrote a list of my top twelve Manu games last year….well here are my top twelve games by Tony Parker, starting with number 12.
#12 – 2003 Western Conference Finals Game 3 at Dallas
Tony’s Line: 29 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 13/23 fg
Its kind of strange that I am picking this game to lead off my list because I haven’t seen this game in years and my memory of it is pretty fuzzy. However, this is number 12 on my list for one specific reason: the ridiculous legend of Speedy Claxton.
Sooo some context…Tony Parker sucked badly in Game 6 against NJ in the finals. He was forcing things, looked lost, and sat on the bench for the final 18 minutes or so while the Spurs came back and won the championship. That was a terrible game for him and Speedy Claxton played amazing as he filled in for him.
However, some Spurs fans (not all, just some) love to bring up this game as irrefutable proof that Tony Parker shrinks in big games and is not a prime-time player. His 2003 playoff run is tarnished because of this one game. Somehow, Speedy Claxton’s heroics (and by heroics, I mean his steady hand in one game) elevated him into Spurs mythology as this guy who carried Tony Parker throughout the playoffs. It sickens me. Yeah Tony had his duds in that run. But he was 20 freakin years old and he still had 20 or more in 7 of their 24 games that year.
And he may have disappeared in that Game 6 but he was instrumental in some of their biggest games. Case in point – Game 3 on the road against Dallas in 2003 The Spurs had already lost home court advantage and the Mavericks had a tough big three in Dirk Nowitzki (he would get injured in the fourth quarter), Steve Nash, and Michael Finley. Timmy was having a huge game as he’d finish with 35 pts and a monstrous 24 rebounds. Still though, on the road in a hostile environment, the Spurs found themselves down eleven points after a Raja Bell three early in the third.
Well Tony Parker, just days past his 21st birthday, would go on to score 19 points in the quarter to help grab control of the game for the Spurs. He did it on an array of floaters, jumpshots, and three pointers. I mean, this was a second year player on the same team as Tim Duncan, David Robinson, and a plethora of other veterans and he completely took over the game when they needed it. He served up the game on a silver platter so that Timmy could feast in the 4th and deliver the victory. Annnnd he did this before he actually developed a consistent jumpshot!
He had other brilliant games in this playoff run including Game 3 against NJ (where he hit like 5 threes in another series that was tied at one game apiece on the road) and a sublime Game 6 against the defending champion Lakers. But this game against the Mavericks always sticks in my mind because of just how unstoppable he was in that quarter. This was not a high-scoring game….I mean this was in 2003 and the final score was 96-83. For him to score 19 pts in one quarter with the Spurs under pressure to get home court back was huge and not something that the Almighty Speedy Claxton could have done. This was something only the greatest point guard in Spurs history could do. (And just to make things better, in Game 4 he would score 11 pts in the third quarter to help them back from a 9 point deficit. Just sayin…)
Thanks for reading everyone and stay tuned for more. Check out my favorite Manu games if you’ve got time for some mindless reading!