Buck Harvey: The way Parker has come to see his Games

LONDON — These were supposed to be Tony Parker’s Olympics. He was supposed to be the host, in Paris, his name in lights in the City of Light.

Instead, he’s teasingly close to his homeland, leading a splintered French team, knowing these will likely be his only Olympics.

But he walked along the Thames Thursday night seemingly OK with that, and what happened last month had something to do with this.

Parker thinks sitting in the dark for a week may have changed the way he sees things.

In many ways, these are still his Olympics. He attended a marketing extravaganza Thursday night in a large building turned into something called “Club France,” and he was clearly the headline performer.

“This has been crazy,” Parker said as he went from interview to dignitary to sponsor, but there was little reluctance. The same Parker who likes to duck out of the Spurs locker room was around as long as necessary.

This fits with a child of the 1992 Dream Team. Parker was mesmerized then, and no one caught the attention of the 10-year-old as Michael Jordan did.

Parker didn’t know much at the time. He just knew he wanted to do that.

He was short and skinny and already working on a floater to score over the big kids. Within nine years, Parker was not only in the NBA, he was also playing with David Robinson, a Dream Team member.

What followed is sometimes overlooked in San Antonio. Parker became the best basketball player in the history of his country, and his status rose accordingly. In 2005, when Paris battled London for the right to be the Olympic host for 2012, Parker traveled with the French delegation to make the final pitch.

London won, and Parker made headlines. He said the decision proved the IOC was “Anglo-Saxon. They prefer the English.”

He later backtracked, saying he had been quoted out of context. But maybe the comment simply reflected the disappointment. Paris, after all, had been considered the favorite.

So Parker could have hung on to all of this, especially given the context of his career. These are his first Olympics and likely his last. In four years Parker will be 34 years old with 14 years of NBA grind on his body.

This one chance isn’t a good one, either. France’s best big man, Joakim Noah, never fully healed from a late-season injury and isn’t here. Nicolas Batum, because of insurance reasons, joined the team just 10 days ago. And Parker is struggling to adjust to goggles.

The best non-American point guard in the Olympics also faces this trio in his opening game Sunday: Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook.

But Parker shrugged Thursday and acted as if life couldn’t be better. He’s staying in the village, with fellow Spur and French teammate Boris Diaw again as a roommate, and he’s already shared a meal with Patty Mills (Australia) and Tiago Splitter (Brazil).

He’s looking forward to his first opening ceremony the way 30-year-old multi-millionaires rarely do, and he doesn’t see his relationship with France ending. After his playing career is over, he says he wants to be president of the French national team.

Parker knows the odds are against his team now, but he said this is why he loves sports. Anything is possible, he said, and his dream is modest.

“All I want is a medal,” he said.

It’s an attitude that can be traced to that night in New York. Parker was in the wrong place, and a piece of glass also ended up in the wrong place. After eye surgery in Paris, he was ordered to stay inactive and keep light out of his hotel room for a week before flying back to San Antonio.

Parker said he could do little else but think, and here is what stuck with him: “Life can change, just like that.”

Life did change. These aren’t his Olympics. But he’s at someone else’s, and he sees that isn’t so bad.


Twitter: @Buck_SA

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