|02 October 2012|
|France point guard Tony Parker played at the Olympics wearing protective goggles after an incident that made him 'put life into perspective' |
The dust has settled on the London Games for French basketball icon Tony Parker.
The tournament didn't end the way he had hoped with a hard-fought, quarter-final defeat to Spain, yet Parker says he will treasure the experience for as long as he lives.
He knows that many a great basketball player over the years never lived the Olympic experience.
But Parker has.
"It was great," he said at the San Antonio Spurs media day on Monday.
"It was a unique experience to be able to share that with my teammates.
"It was a long time since France had been in the Olympics and at the same time, to share that with my Spurs teammates Manu (Ginobili of Argentina), Tiago (Splitter of Brazil) and Patty Mills (of Australia), that was crazy.
"To be with the best athletes in each sport, to be there, it was just an amazing experience."
Parker had tried twice before to reach the Olympics and barely missed out each time.
At EuroBasket 2003 in Sweden, France had needed to win the bronze medal game against Italy but lost a 69-67 heartbreaker.
At EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, Les Bleus had needed to beat Russia to advance to the Semi-Finals but lost, 75-71.
France then had to win one of their last two games against Croatia or Slovenia to clinch a spot in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens yet lost each game.
And despite clinching silver at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, Parker almost missed the 2012 Olympics because of an eye injury.
He was with a friend in a New York City nightclub when a fight broke out.
An innocent bystander, Parker had a shard of glass end up in his eye.
After being cleared by Spurs doctors to play, he arrived late at France's preparations.
Parker competed, but wore protective goggles.
The incident has made him look at life in a different way.
|The French contingent in San Antonio has further increased this year as Nando De Colo joins Parker and Boris Diaw at the Spurs|
"Definitely," he said.
"Being at the wrong place at the wrong time, it put life into perspective. You just think of stuff different.
"It can happen to anyone in life. You just learn from it, you just try to be more careful.
"But at the same time, anything can happen. I just move forward, learn from it and try to do better next time."
His latest chapter with the France national team has been written.
Now Parker is looking forward to a writing a new one with San Antonio.
It still burns that the last NBA season ended for San Antonio with a 4-2 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
San Antonio had won the first two games but the Thunder struck back with a vengeance.
"Definitely, definitely," he said.
"I still think about it.
"You win 20 games in a row and you feel like you're playing the best basketball and you lose four in a row, it's very hard to understand.
"But that's the beauty of sport. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's very painful. You just hope you are on the right side."
Parker will not be the only Frenchman in San Antonio squad.
Boris Diaw joined the team during the 2011-12 campaign and has returned, and Nando de Colo, the club's 2009 second-round draft pick, has also signed with the team and is now with Parker and Co.
De Colo reached the 2009 EuroChallenge title game with Cholet, pouring in a game-high 24 points against Virtus Bologna that night.
They lost, but the performance announced his arrival as a big-time player.
He then spent three successful seasons with Valencia Basket before deciding this summer to cross the Atlantic.
"At the end of the day, all of the Spurs - we've been lucky to have won a lot of championships and we'll try to do it again," Parker said.
"I like our chances.
"I like the fact that Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) and (general manager) R.C. (Buford) have chosen stability and gone with the same team.
"I think the main thing for us is that all of our young guys have one more year of experience, they've been through the play-offs, big games and I think that's going to be very helpful for us."