By Jeff Taylor
|The buzzer sounds signaling the end of the France vs. Russia Semi-Final. Tony Parker kneels at mid-court in tears...|
The actions of Tony Parker immediately after France's win over Russia on Friday night spoke volumes about his long, hard journey with the national team.
A European basketball icon, Parker had a glittering curriculum vitae heading into this summer's EuroBasket in Lithuania.
The 29-year-old point guard had won three NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs and was even named MVP of the Finals in 2007.
He's a household name in America and back in his homeland.
But there had been a void in Parker's career.
He had never played in a EuroBasket Final, and never made it to an Olympic Games.
After pouring in 22 points in France's 79-71 triumph over Russia in the Semi-Finals, and immediately after the final buzzer, Parker knelt at mid-court and had a short, quiet celebration.
He knew he would at long last play in a gold-medal game of a major competition, and also compete at next year's London Games.
"It's been a long time that I've waited for this," he said.
"I had tears in my eyes."
Parker and all the French players also took time thank all of those who had supported them.
During the games in Kaunas, there has been a section of fans wearing the French tri-color and chanting, repeatedly, "Allez Les Bleus, Allez Les Bleus!"
"I was so happy that I jumped into the stands with my brothers and my family," Parker said.
|...and moments later jumps in the stands to join the French fans' celebrations|
"We are in the Olympics.
"I have worked very hard for this.
"It's been 11 years that I've run for that.
"We've been down, we have suffered defeats and disappointments.
"But little by little, we have avenged them.
"First against Greece, then against Russia."
Nothing would be sweeter than beating Spain, the number two team in the FIBA World Rankings.
Spain piled on the agony for Parker two years ago in the Quarter-Finals at the EuroBasket in Poland.
The Spaniards won that game and then defeated Greece before hammering Serbia in the gold-medal game.
France, who lost just once, fell only in that game to Spain in Poland, yet finished the competition in fifth.
"We will have to play a great game on Sunday just as we did against Russia," Parker said.
"(But) We deserve it.
"We have worked hard for two months to become a great team."