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• But not after having one last look at the man everybody was watching.
The applause still rings in the ear. But just the same, let’s have it one more time for Tony Parker.
Those who were at the Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday for the final of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament must be still feeling the effects of witnessing a virtuoso display from the NBA’s Parker.
The leader of the French national team showed why he helped the San Antonio Spurs win four NBA championships after emerging as one of the top performers in France’s 83-74 victory over Canada that confirmed their place in next month’s Rio Olympics.
Parker played as if it was the 2007 NBA Finals when he was named Finals Most Valuable Player, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, with four rebounds and four assists in nearly 28 minutes of action.
“I can’t do it every game, but when it counts that’s my job as a leader of the team, trying to beat aggressive and make the baskets when it counts,” Parker said.
It was quite different from his past games, where Parker even spent the whole fourth quarter on the bench in the semifinal win over Turkey, allowing backup Thomas Heurtel to play the hero’s role.
The 34-year-old highlighted his masterful display with 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a killer three off his former teammate and protégé in Toronto Raptors guard Corey Joseph.
With the shot clock winding down, Parker got a tough crosscourt pass from Nando de Colo, who drove to the lane against Canada’s rim protector Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Parker then faked a shot against Joseph, took one dribble to his left before hitting a right elbow three that gave France a 73-66 lead with 2:15 left.
After receiving France’s ticket to Rio, Parker waved at screaming fans, as if he was the leader of the band that just finished a memorable concert. It was a gesture of appreciation for the overwhelming adoration he and the rest of the team received since arriving in the country.