Professional basketball player
B orn William Tony Parker, May 17, 1982, in Bruges, Belgium; son of Tony Parker Sr. (a professional basketball player) and Pamela Firestone (a model); married Eva Longoria (an actress), July 7, 2007.
S igned with Paris Saint-Germain Racing, of the French ProALeague, c. 1999; entered NBAdraft, 2001; played for the San Antonio Spurs, 2001—.
Awards: Junior (Under18) European Championships, MVP, 2000; NBAAll-Rookie First Team, 2001-02; NBA All-Star Team, 2006, 2007; named NBA Championship Finals MVP, 2007.
W ith his no-look passes, incredible speed, and dead-eye jumpers, point guard Tony Parker led the San Antonio Spurs to the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 2003, 2005 and 2007. During the 2007 NBA Finals, the Belgian-born, French-raised Parker averaged 24.5 points per game. Parker’s stellar post-season performance earned him Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors, making him the first European in league history to win the NBA Finals MVP award. Though Parker is always in the spotlight on the court, when he walks off the court all eyes focus on his wife—Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, whom he married in 2007.
Parker was born on May 17, 1982, in Bruges, Belgium, though he was raised in France where his American father, Tony Parker Sr., played basketball professionally. The elder Parker honed his basketball skills at Loyola University in Chicago, then headed to Europe to play. While there, he met Dutch model Pamela Firestone. The two married and had three sons—Tony Jr., Terence, and Pierre. They eventually divorced.
Given his father’s occupation, Parker naturally took an early interest in basketball. The family photo album contains pictures of Parker, just 18 months old, holding a basketball. However, as a child Parker initially preferred soccer. With his speed and coordination, he showed potential to become a soccer star. Parker’s sports focus changed during a 1991 visit to Chicago, Illinois. Parker, just nine, was visiting his grandparents in the Windy City and got swept up in the NBA playoffs, which featured Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Glued to the television, Parker watched the slam-dunking Jordan lead the Bulls to their first championship. Mesmer- ized by the NBA—and Jordan in particular—Parker decided he wanted to become a professional basketball player. He gave up soccer and his father began teaching him everything he knew.
In 1994, Parker began playing for a basketball team in Deville-les-Rouen, France. At 15, he enrolled at the Institut National du Sport et de l’Education Physique (National Institute of Physical Education), a Paris-based sporting academy for the country’s top athletes. During this time, Parker continued to follow Jordan’s career and spent his free time watching tapes of Jordan and other top NBA guards. During a 1996 visit to Chicago, Parker got to meet his hero when his uncle arranged for him to attend a Bulls practice session. Parker met Bulls standout Scottie Pippen and got his picture taken with Jordan. Speaking to the Austin American-Statesman’s Mark Rosner, Parker described his admiration for Jordan this way: “I followed Michael because I like his mentality, [because] he never wants to lose, [because of] his leadership. I like to watch [point guards] Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, Magic [Johnson]. I’m a student of it.”
What Parker watched on television, he tried to transfer to the court. At 17, he signed with Paris Saint-Germain Racing, a basketball team that competed in the French ProALeague. “Most of the guys I played with and against were 29, 30 years old,” Parker told Sports Illustrated Kids writer Mike Monroe. “I got banged around quite a bit, but it was a great learning experience and made me mature.” In 2000, Parker led the French national under18 team to victory in the junior European Championships, earning MVP honors.
While Parker was well-known in his own country, he did not grab the attention of the U.S.based NBA until the 2000 Nike Hoop Summit, held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Playing for the European junior team, Parker showed off his talents against some of the United States’ top high school prospects. In a game that pitted the European All-Stars against the U.S. All-Stars, Parker managed 20 points, seven assists, and four rebounds in a 98-97 loss to Team USA, piquing the interest of NBA scouts.
In 2001, the 6foot2, 180pound Parker entered the NBA draft and was chosen by the Spurs as the 28th pick. Initially, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich intended to use Parker as a backup to Antonio Daniels. The Spurs started the season sluggishly and after just five games, Popovich inserted 19year-old Parker into the starting lineup. Parker ended the season being named to the All-Rookie First Team. In the 2002-03 season, his second on the team, Parker’s steady play helped lead the Spurs to an NBA title. The Spurs captured another in 2005.
Though Parker was playing consistently, he still had a lot of maturing to do. He continued to work on his offense, improving his range and accuracy, though he lived in the shadow of his teammate, power forward and scoring machine Tim Duncan. During the 2005-06 season, Duncan was sidelined with an injury and Parker came alive, leading his team in scoring. He averaged 18.9 points per game and was named to the NBA All-Star team. Parker continued to be a playmaker during the 2006-07 season and in April of 2007 scored a career-high 35 points in a game against the Phoenix Suns. He led his team to the championships, where the Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the NBA Finals, Parker averaged 24.5 points and 3.3 assists per game. He was named Finals MVP, becoming the first European to win such honors.
Besides winning the NBA championship in 2007, Parker wed Longoria, famous for her role as Gabrielle on the ABC hit Desperate Housewives. The two met in November of 2004 when Longoria, a Texas native, attended a Spurs basketball game with her father, a huge fan of the team. Sitting in the stands, Longoria was approached by a Spurs official who asked if she and her father wanted to meet the team. When Longoria was introduced to Parker, she spoke to him in his native language because she remembered reading in the program that he was from France. Intrigued, Parker invited Longoria to dinner. They married in a lavish July 7, 2007, wedding in a castle outside Paris.
The newlyweds planned to settle down in San Antonio, where they built a new house on a 23acre compound that included an indoor basketball court and small-scale water park. When Parker is not hanging out at home or playing basketball, he dabbles in music. In 2007, Parker released a hip-hop album in France, titled Balance-Toi, or Bounce. Lon-goria made a cameo appearance in one of Parker’s videos, but the album never really took off.
While Parker’s fame continues to rise in the United States, he has yet to achieve superstar status back in France. After winning the 2007 NBA championship, Parker wrapped a French flag around his shoulders for post-game festivities to honor those fans who wake at 3 a.m. to watch him play. Speaking to Insidehoops.com after being named the NBA Finals MVP, Parker acknowledged that in France, his fame has yet to eclipse that of French soccer star and World Cup champion Zinedine Zidane. “Zidane is always going to be the man in France because soccer is so popular, but hopefully French people can realize what I just accomplished, three championships in five years, that’s not bad.”
Austin American-Statesman (Austin, TX), November 25, 2001.
Jet, July 2, 2007, pp. 50-52.
Sports Illustrated, August 14, 2006, p. 54; June 27, 2007, pp. 56-60.
Sports Illustrated Kids, March 2007, p. 27.
“Basketball, a Destiny,” Tony Parker’s Official Web-site, http://www.tp9.net/en/viebio1.htm (July 30, 2007).
“Tony Parker,” NBA.com, http://www.nba.com/playerfile/tony_parker/career_stats.html (July 30, 2007).
“Tony Parker interview after winning finals MVP,” InsideHoops.com, http://www.insidehoops.com/parker-interview061507.shtml (July 30, 2007).