- Tony Parker called the Spurs 2014 championship his “favorite” because of the road they took there.
- The Spurs narrowly lost the 2013 Finals, but were galvanized to come back even better.
- Parker won three championships from 2003-2007 and said the long wait for his fourth made it more special.
Tony Parker remembers the team dinner on June 13, 2013, as one of the worst of his life.
The San Antonio Spurs had just lost Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, 103-100, quite literally letting a championship slip through their fingers.
In one of the most iconic finishes in NBA Finals history, the Spurs led the Heat, 94-89, with 28 seconds left, only to let Miami hit two three-pointers — including Ray Allen’s famous game-tying three with five seconds left — to force overtime.
The Spurs were so close to sealing the championship that American Airlines Arena staff were preparing for the trophy presentation.
The Heat won in overtime and tied the series to force a Game 7.
“It felt like we lost the Finals, but we still had one more game to go,” Parker recently told Insider, while promoting his partnership with French wine brands Château La Mascaronne and Jeeper. “But it was just hard to take that [loss].”
Parker and the Spurs went on to lose Game 7 and the championship. But according to Parker, that dinner spurred (no pun intended) the motivation for the following season.
“That dinner was the beginning of what happened the next year,” Parker said.
While Parker described the mood as dour, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes had reported that Popovich went above and beyond at that dinner to try to rejuvenate the team from the loss, including having players’ families surround them at the dinner.
Parker said the occasion galvanized the Spurs.
“Sometimes when you have bad things happening in life or bad stuff, it can be the beginning of great stuff,” he said.
A moment that could have gutted the Spurs instead became motivation. San Antonio went 62-20 the following season. They ran through the Western Conference playoffs to set up a rematch with the Heat.
The Spurs dismantled the Heat in five games, and along the way, the Spurs captivated the basketball world with a spread offense that featured beautiful ball movement and a bevy of three-pointers. In those five Finals games, the Spurs shot 46.6% from three-point range while averaging 25.4 assists per game, 10 more than Miami averaged. The Spurs scored 119.5 points per 100 possessions, an offensive rating that would have led the league by eight points during the regular season.
There are dozens of highlight mixes on YouTube dedicated to the Spurs offense during that season.
“I think we played the best basketball in Spurs history,” Parker said. “[Some] of the best basketball in NBA history in those Finals. The way we played, it came from that tough loss.”
Parker, who won four championships in 17 years with the Spurs, called that 2014 championship his favorite. He said each of his first three championships — won in 2003, 2005, and 2007 — are special, but he didn’t yet have the perspective to appreciate them.
“But 2014 is by far my favorite because I was 21 when we won the first one,” Parker said. “And then at 25, I won three in five years, you know? So like, it kind of came fast. And then nothing for like, seven years. So it felt like a desert. We lost in the conference finals in 2012, NBA Finals in 2013. So we finally get the championship in 2014. It was special because you can put it in perspective, like, man, it’s hard to win the championship.”
Parker and the Spurs never quite got back to the mountaintop afterward.
Parker spent the 2018-19 season with the Charlotte Hornets before retiring. The Spurs retired his jersey in 2019.
Parker, who is a part-owner of the French professional club ASVEL, told Insider he is interested in one day making a jump to an NBA front office. The Spurs would be a natural fit.
“I will always be connected to the Spurs, with Coach Pop and [CEO] R.C. [Buford],” Parker said. “They can always call me and because I own my team, we still do stuff together.
“But yeah, why not? I always think like one day, I’ll take the NBA challenge. Not to coach. I prefer the front office. One day I’ll come back and do this.”