If you had asked a San Antonio Spurs fan in 2001 what they had thought of the team's latest draft pick, they likely would have shrugged nonchalantly.
At the time, the undersized shooting guard that was Tony Parker was only a late first-round pick, and merely a supplement to Tim Duncan.
Fast forward 12 years, and that 28th overall pick is among the best point guards in the entire league, as well as one of the top players in the Association.
However, despite having been an MVP contender last season, and a borderline All-Star for a while, the electrifying Frenchman doesn't receive the respect that he deserves.
Fans often neglect him when mentioning the league's top point guards, though he undoubtedly deserves to be in the same category as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo.
But while he has been performing at a high level for quite some time now, Parker is just recently garnering respect as one of the top point guards in the league. His MVP-caliber performance last season marked his entrance into his prime—with the veteran guard finishing in the top five in MVP voting. He also received an All-Star selection and an All-NBA second team bid.
This year, Parker has improved even more, and was just recently chosen as a reserve in this year's All-Star game.
Despite this mild recognition, however, Parker still remains one of the most undervalued players in the league—and while it is highly unfair, it will be difficult for him to escape the curse.
His achievements have been overshadowed by Tim Duncan for the majority of his career, and while Duncan is certainly on the verge of retirement, he remains the team's leader and top player, allowing Parker to be recognized as his mere sidekick.
The Spurs in general often fly under the radar, and the sidekick on an overlooked team will never be recognized for his talents. However, even as he transitions into the leading role, fans outside of San Antonio won't see him as the superstar that he is. Instead, he'll be viewed as a product of the Spurs' system—a good player on a great team—or as Duncan's partner, even after Duncan's retirement.
He'll be the team's leader for a few years following his teammate's retirement, but with Kawhi Leonard emerging as a future star, one can only wonder how long the team will actually belong to Parker?
Even within the organization, Parker isn't treated like the superstar that he is. Future Hall of Fame coach, Gregg Popovich has already pegged Leonard as the team's next star, making Parker's reign in San Antonio seem like nothing more than a transition between the aging Duncan and the rising Leonard.
As a three-time NBA Champion, a winner of the coveted Finals MVP award, and the recipient of numerous All-Star nominations, the 11-year veteran already has quite the achievements to show for his career,
And he's only 30 years old.
However, with Duncan making the most out of his final years, and Leonard maturing at a rapid rate, Parker will continue to struggle to get the respect that he deserves—though he is definitely on a mission to change that.
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