Tony Parker: "It was great to play against the best Spain"

The point guard attends AS for the Rainbow Six World Cup, an esport competition for which he is an ambassador. Review his time in the NBA, his duels against Pau ...


Tony Parker (Bruges, Belgium) is one of the great icons of French basketball and the NBA. The point guard played 17 seasons for the San Antonio Spurs (one in Charlotte) under Gregg Popovich. Together with Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan he formed the best trio in the history of the North American League: they conquered four rings and added 575 victories in the regular season and 127 in the playoffs, absolute maximums in the American competition.

At 38 years old, and now retired as a basketball player, Parker divides his time between Asvel Villeurbanne, which he owns, and esports, which he has become an ambassador for the Rainbow Six. As a reason for the World Cup of the famous Ubisoft game, the French international (four nicked in different Eurobaskets) attends AS.

What will be your involvement with the players as an ambassador for this Rainbow Six World Cup? What common ground do you think you can have with the different competitors?

It is a great honor to work with Ubisoft and to be the ambassador with my academy for Rainbow Six, a very important esport game. It is the first time in esports that a world cup format is going to be made. My role as an ambassador will be to share my experiences accumulated during my sports career with the players, to explain to them why it is important to play for the national team. In my career it was always a great honor and something very special to play for France. In esport this is something new, I hope that the players can feel and experience the same as I did when I played for the French team.

He has lived the sport as a player and now the same as an entrepreneur at the French Asvel Villeurbanne. How do you see the evolution of esports and its effect on the world of sports?

Esports are growing very fast, so I decided to get involved six or seven years ago in this world. I've always been very curious about it, it's a great community with very passionate fans. And they don't stop growing. In fact, I would not be surprised to see them at the Olympic Games in 2024 or 2028. The involvement of investors in this activity is of increasing quality, it is incredible to see how they have evolved.

As the owner of Lyon, how do you see the outlook for the Euroleague for next season with the bad numbers that the coronavirus pandemic is returning to in many countries in Europe?

It is very difficult to predict. The number of cases is growing a lot again. I hope we can work together again and reduce those numbers as much as possible. Hopefully by the start of 2021 we can also have a vaccine against COVID-19. We'll see, we have to wait. The Euroleague is a transcendental competition for teams, the most important in Europe. We have to wait, but hopefully we can play the whole game next season.

The San Antonio Spurs, their Spurs, have been left out of the NBA playoffs after 22 seasons in the title playoffs.

I'm sad (laughs). The streak is over. But now you look back and it's been 22 incredible years. Going to the playoffs every year, with Gregg Popovich, in our years with the big three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili), with constant dedication to being a great team, for always fighting for the NBA championship. It's a great franchise, so hopefully it will be back in the final rounds for the title as soon as possible.

What is the secret to making the San Antonio Spurs such a special franchise in every way?

The mentality, the dedication that goes into being a great team. Popovich, the years we were Duncan, Ginobili and I ... we wanted to be a great team and we worked every day for it, we were never satisfied, we always tried to improve. Also, when we had won the title, we would go back to the following season trying to be better. In the NBA it is very difficult to win the championship, it is very difficult to win games. But we worked very hard and did our best to be great.

I assume you are watching NBA games at Walt Disney's bubble in Orlando, Florida. What do you think of the format and level of play of the teams?

First of all, I am very happy that there is basketball, that it is back. It was very sad to see how the whole sport stopped. So it's great to be able to watch the NBA, the football Champions League ... everything that has been coming back, even if it had to be without an audience. That alone is already a victory for all.

Do you think that is, at least in the short term, the only possible option for sport during the coronavirus pandemic?

At least until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, some sports are going to have to be like this. I don't think there will be fans until 2021.

You know that Pau Gasol keeps fighting to get to the Tokyo Olympics. What memories do you have of your duels with him in the NBA and in the FIBA tournaments during the Spain-France?

A great rivalry. It was great to play against the teams that Spain had, the best generation they have ever had. They were great games, Spain forced us to improve, to be a better team. The great thing with Pau is that now we are friends. We talk a lot, we have good conversations, we give each other advice, I learn a lot from him ... for me the best of all is that, friendship. Yes, we were rivals on the slopes, but we will be friends forever.

What do you say to young players who want to make the leap to the NBA? Here in Spain there is a furor with Luka Doncic ...

I don't think there is a rule that is common to all young players. If you are good, you are good. There's no more. If you think you're ready, you have to go to the NBA. I don't think it's the same for all players. Luka Doncic was because he was prepared. If someone else thinks they have to wait some more season, it's for the best. Each case is different.

A World Cup for the summer of 2021

Tony Parker is the ambassador of a historic event for esports: the Rainbow Six World Cup. With a community of more than 60 million players, 40 professional teams and leagues in Europe, America and Asia-Pacific, the Ubisoft game will search for the first time in its history which country is the best in the world in the summer of 2021.

“It is a very important step. We have prepared it for years, ”says François-Xavier Dénièle, director of esports for the French company. “We have a great format, a great ambassador like Tony Parker. We can create a competition that gets more and more people interested in esports. ”

Dénièle, in conversation with AS, assures that the presence of the French base is key to this unprecedented type of international tournament: “He competed with France, he gave great importance to that part of his career and he can explain well to the participants what it means play for your country's national team. ”

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