Tony Parker talks about playing for legacy with Spurs, France

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When you talk about the greatest European players in NBA history, Tony Parker’s name has to come up. He’s a four-time NBA champion including one where he was Finals MVP (2007), a six-time All-Star, four times All-NBA second team, plus he has a European championship where he was the unquestioned leader of the French team.

At age 33, he is back defending that Euro title starting today (Saturday).

You can bet Gregg Popovich would prefer Parker be back in San Antonio prepping for the season in a lower-risk environment, but Parker told ESPN that playing for this title is about his legacy, and he can’t pass it up.

“My idol was Michael Jordan,” Parker said. “He was always motivated to get better. Lots of people have asked me, ‘Tony, why do you continue to play for the French national team? There’s nothing to prove.’ But I’m motivated, to play as long as possible, to use my talents for as long as possible and to push my limits.

“You look for things to motivate you. There’s history you can look at. There have been many great teams that have come before you: Yugoslavia, the great teams, Spain [now]. They’re a super example for us. … Perhaps in 10, 15, 20 years, we’ll have inspired the basketball players of France.”

Parker is the best player ever to come out of France (a country that had 10 players on NBA rosters at the start of last season). When the discussion turns to the greatest European player ever in the NBA the first answer is usually Dirk Nowitzki, and with good reason. But Parker should be mentioned in that same breath.

Now, he says, “it’s an honor to be in a conversation for the best European player in history. You don’t think of that when you start. You have all the names, guys like [Toni] Kukoc, [Drazen] Petrovic who stood out in European basketball. It’s bizarre to think of someone from France being near No. 1.”

It’s not as bizarre as it used to be, which is part of Parker’s legacy.