John Smallwood | Timmy's 'the man,' but Parker is the MVP

Posted: June 15, 2007

CLEVELAND – Tony Parker had been trying to keep things in perspective.

Considering the way he played during the first three games of the NBA Finals, it was clear that the San Antonio Spurs point guard from France was the favorite to become the first European player to be named Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals.

And reporters from his home continent were eager to get his thoughts on the possibility – even if there was the little matter of the Spurs actually winning the championship to be taken care of.

"It's a long way, a long way," Parker said after Game 2, when he scored 30 and the possibility of MVP was first brought up. "I don't think about that.

"I'm just trying to play my game, and whatever happens, [Spurs forward Tim Duncan] is the man. Timmy is the star on our team."

But Parker had been the star of these Finals.

He led the Spurs in scoring in each of the first three games and had been the thorn in the side that the Cleveland Cavaliers could not extract.

So after San Antonio took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series on Tuesday, the issue inevitably came up again.

"That would be nice," Parker said when asked about the possibility of being the first European Finals MVP. "If it happens, I'll be the first one to be very happy. If it goes to Timmy, I'll be happy to win a third championship."

Cavaliers forward LeBron James may be known as the King, but today, it's good to be Tony Parker.

Parker got to have his cake when San Antonio beat the Cavs last night, 83-82, at Quicken Loans Arena to win the NBA championship - their third in 5 years and fourth in 9.

He got to eat it after indeed making history by becoming the first European to be named Finals MVP.

"It's like a dream," said Parker, who used to sneak out of his bed at 3 in the morning to watch NBA games while growing up in Paris. "I want to thank my teammates. I'll wake up [today] look at this [MVP trophy] and it's still going to be a dream."

For the series, Parker averaged 25.6 points and shot 57 percent from the floor.

"European basketball is improving each year," Parker said, noting that Dallas Mavericks star and German national Dirk Nowitzki "is the league MVP and now I'm the Finals MVP. There is more to come."

Had Duncan, - MVP of the Spurs' first three championships - won his fourth Finals MVP, he would have trailed only Michael Jordan, who was Finals MVP of all six of the Chicago Bulls' titles.

As it is, he'll stay in the good company of Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal, each of whom won three Finals MVPs with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"[Parker] was unbelievable," said Duncan, who after Game 3 said he would vote for Parker. "I had no chance. Tony carried the team and he deserves [the MVP]."

With Manu Ginobili scoring a game-high 27, last night's clincher was the only one in which Parker didn't lead the Spurs in scoring. But he still had 24 points and was crucial in helping San Antonio withstand the early energy from a desperate Cleveland team.

"Well, I think it was well-deserved," Ginobili said of Parker's being named MVP. "The way he played in all four games was just unbelievable.

"He really showed us the way, especially in some games where [Duncan] and I were not playing that good. [Parker] kind of maintained the rhythm and made some big buckets. He was just a presence inside the court. As I said before, it's really well-deserved."

In 2003, when San Antonio won its second championship, Parker was a 20-year-old, second-year point guard still trying to gain the respect of his veteran teammates.

There was even talk of trading him to make a free-agent run at Jason Kidd.

"Right after the game, when we were standing on the podium, I reminded Tony that when he had his first workout for us [in 2001], we sent him home because we didn't think he was tough enough," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

"Then we brought him back and really stacked things against him, and he really competed. He just laughed. Then I said, 'Here you are standing with the MVP trophy.' He just kept laughing. He's come a long way." *

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