Walking down the same path, Parker and Ginobili collide


The two embraced before taking the court, and then proceeded to collide on it shortly thereafter.

Tony Parker, an impossible combination of total body control at breakneck speeds, raced down the court at full throttle. Manu Ginobili, who ties similar body control to supernatural instincts, jumped Parker’s route at the last second—which, as it turns out, is a half-second too late when containing Parker in the open court.

After nearly a decade working together as teammates, one wonders if this shared moment as rivals sparked a “so that’s what THAT feels like,” second of sympathy for NBA opponents.

As backcourt partners in the NBA, Tony Parker has developed a symbiotic chemistry with Manu Ginobili. But it’s only this setting, apart and against Ginobili, that he can truly understand him.

After all, it was in an international setting that Manu Ginobili rose to prominence. Given a team to lead, and a role that allowed him unfettered access to explore the depths of his game, Ginobili arrived in San Antonio with a fully realized basketball identity. He grew up with and through the Argentine national team.

Tony Parker arrived to San Antonio an unknown kid with little in the way of life or basketball experiences. So far as learning curves go, you could certainly do a lot worse than developing your game under the protective shadow of Tim Duncan.

But such shadows limit as much as they protect. No matter how nurturing Duncan was and is as a teammate, Tony Parker’s basketball identity was born in a state of perpetual deference to the Spurs’ franchise player.

While Ginobili on a championship Spurs team faced the same pecking order limitations as Parker, his dual basketball citizenship allowed him experiences necessary to step above and beyond a secondary role as the Spurs needed.

Little wonder then that the biggest leaps in Parker’s game have occurred as Parker has taken a bigger role on the French national team.

The popular narrative of Parker’s breakthrough season of a year ago was that Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, impressed with the qualities and aggressiveness Parker displayed with the French National Team, challenged his point guard to translate them to the NBA.

Then and now, the Tony Parker leading the French national team is slightly different from the one that helms the San Antonio Spurs. The French National Team has become a personal laboratory of sorts for Parker—taking the same Popovich system that has helped prop up his game, and making it his own in ways he never could with the Spurs.

Against Argentina, Parker struggled at times with his shot. Lacking a safety net, however, the offense continued to work through him as he continued to work through the game.

With Ginobili charging an Argentina comeback, it was Parker’s turn to get in the way, answering his past and future teammate’s heroics with a few of his own.

When the two meet again in training camp, it will be with jokes, a few bragging rights, and a new perspective on an old friend.