2013 NBA Finals: Tony Parker Cements Status As One of Basketball's Elite Players

Martin TelleriaSenior Analyst IIIJune 8, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 06:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs makes a shot with 5.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during Game One of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 6, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We did a double-take when we saw the tweet. Upon seeing that it was indeed what we thought it was, we scoffed, laughed and proceeded to call Jalen Rose crazy.

Tony Parker as the third-best player in the league? What kind of crazy pills was Rose on?

Thus far in the postseason, Parker has done nothing but make Rose look like an absolute genius. Usually we judge a player by the full body of their work. In the San Antonio Spurs’ 92-88 win over the Miami Heat Thursday night, it was one play that cemented Parker as one of the titans of the game.

Ironically, it was a play that had completely broken down that ensured a Spurs win came together. And what a play it was.

We saw Parker weave around defenders, maneuver through the paint and even keep his dribble on one knee. And that was the easy part.

The next phase of the play involved going toe-to-toe with the single-most destructive force the NBA has to offer. And LeBron James delivered, smothering Parker as the shot clock dwindled down, any semblance of a good shot completely out of the question.

Unfortunately for James, Parker didn’t need to get a good shot. He simply needed to get a look at the basket. Speaking after the game, via Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com, Parker described the thought-process that took place as he attempted to salvage the most important possession of the game:

“At the end, I was just trying to get a shot up. It felt good when it left my hand.”

In the end, it didn’t just feel good; it was good. Not even the out-stretched arm of James could change that, his best defense not enough to neutralize Parker’s even better offense.

The shot hit the side of the backboard, grazing the front of the rim on its path to the bottom of the net. And just like that, the dagger had been hit, all hopes of a Heat comeback squashed by the chronically-underrated Frenchman.

Parker did what stars are supposed to do, scoring not just those two points, but 10 overall in the ever-important fourth quarter. He willed his team to victory, embracing the grandest of stages and making it his own.

After witnessing what he has done this entire postseason, maybe it’s time we stop laughing. The task of ranking the best players in the league is a fruitless one, the subjectivity of it always trumping the objectivity that should take precedence.

Still, by dismissing him from the discussion simply because he is Tony Parker is clearly foolish. What more can he do to sway the public opinion of the greatness of his game?

For too long he has been dismissed from the best point guard in the game discussion, guys like Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook dominating the discussion over the last few years.

It’s simply perplexing. Statically he stacks up favorably. The rings, then, should easily put him over the top. But they haven’t. For a man who has been in the league 11 years and has won three championships in between, his fourth Finals appearance should not be his coming-out party.

Yet, it feels like it is. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Not to Parker. Like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Parker is a true Spur, the success of the team always taking priority over the accolades of the player.

Whether he is the best point guard in basketball, the third-best player in the league or neither of them, Parker doesn’t care. All he cares about is winning that fourth ring that has eluded him for too long.

His iconic performance in Game 1 has him one step closer to the ultimate goal. If the public perspective about his status in the game is changed as a result of it, well, that’s just gravy for Parker.