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Gregg Popovich once deemed Tony Parker too soft to draft

Jun 4, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four Getty Images

When naming the NBA’s toughest players, Tony Parker probably doesn’t crack the list. But when naming players with question marks about their toughness, Parker certainly doesn’t make that list, either.

For player as skilled as Parker, that’s a big deal. He doesn’t have to be Charles Oakley to succeed. He just must be tough enough to allow his talent to shine, and he’s obviously done that.

But it wasn’t always clear he could. Billy Witz of The New York Times:

When Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, first set eyes on Tony Parker, at a predraft camp in Chicago in 2001, he did not need long to reach an assessment.

Parker, then a 19-year-old from France, had generated some buzz with a strong performance against a team of American high school all-stars. He intrigued the Spurs, who had the last pick of the first round. But Popovich’s appraisal after the workout was typically blunt: Parker was too soft.

When R. C. Buford, then the assistant general manager, got more looks at Parker, who had just arrived off a plane from Paris for that initial workout, he persuaded Popovich to take another look. So the Spurs set up a workout in San Antonio. Popovich brought in three players he described with a chuckle as thugs and stationed them for 45 minutes with Parker on the low block. The workout had little to do with playing point guard, scoring guard or basketball, really.

“They just wanted to see what I was made of,” Parker said. “I didn’t even realize it was for that. I was just trying to do my best. I was happy to do a workout for an N.B.A. team.”

This story shows one reason the Spurs have been so successful. Their coach and general manager spoke about their disagreement, and Popovich remained open-minded. Certainly, other coaches might not have been willing to give Parker a true second look.

Popovich and the Spurs are certainly glad he did, though.

  1. patfic15 - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Hard as it is for me to admit, I like Parker. Not cool with the cheating thing on Eva though…though I’d love to be the one caught cheating with her. Lol.

    • explosionsauce - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Way to throw your wife under the bus

      • patfic15 - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:09 PM

        Its Eva Longoria. She would understand.

    • bukes111 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:09 AM

      You’re forgetting the other side of this. He cheated on Eva w/ Brent Barry’s wife. That’s how Eva found out, the affair was mentioned in Brent Barry’s divorce papers. Bad enough to cheat on your wife, but also screw over your teammate/good friend. He took down 2 marriages.

  2. fanofevilempire - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Tony was soft, Pop made him cry at practice, now Tony is arguably the BEST point guard
    that no body names when naming the best point guard during the regular season.
    This Spurs team is run by Tony, it’s his team. The French man is bad ass.

    • deeballer - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:57 PM

      Like all French people, they’ll surrender. This time to the Heat.

  3. money2long - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/483ffa7c8017ac396e49e8cc6a8d3529/tumblr_mntzwpfOkZ1qa8tuqo1_1280.jpg

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