CLEVELAND (Reuters) - San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker has the girl, the championship rings and the MVP trophy although he does not have top billing in his native France.
That, he said, goes to soccer great Zinedine Zidane.
“Zidane is always going to be the man in France because soccer is so popular,” Parker said of the former Real Madrid playmaker who helped his country win the World Cup in 1998.
“But, hopefully, French people can realise what I accomplished — three championships in five years, that’s not bad,” added Parker.”
He was named MVP of the NBA finals on Thursday night after scoring 24 points to lead the Spurs to an 83-82 victory and a series sweep over the outmanned Cleveland Cavaliers.
The title was the third in the six-year NBA career for the 25-year-old Belgian-born Frenchman. He won the MVP award after averaging 24.5 points on 57 percent shooting.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chatted with Parker on the stage while the team was being presented with the championship trophy.
“I reminded him that when we gave him his first workout, we didn’t think he was tough enough and we sent him home,” Popovich said.
“And then we set up another interview, another workout where we stacked it and had some people go after him physically and he was fantastic in that one.
“I reminded him of that and he had a big laugh. And I said, ‘Now you’re standing here on the stage with the finals MVP trophy,’ and he just kept laughing. He couldn’t believe it.”
The Spurs owe their fourth title in the last 11 years largely to a man who used to watch Michael Jordan on TV at 3 a.m. in France and dreamed of playing in the NBA.
Parker recalled his first workout as Popovich seethed.
“I was terrible and coach Pop said, ‘I never want to see him again,’ Parker recalled. “And then I came back and I did better and they finally drafted me. And after five games, he puts me in the starting five.
“It was just like growing pains. But it was great because it made me better.”
Life is good for the diminutive point guard with the film star looks and a new rap CD ready to hit the United States.
On July 7, he will marry Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria but he sidestepped questions on which ring he will treasure more — that from the NBA or the one he will receive from Longoria.
“Can’t choose,” he said. Both are very good.”