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A Frenchman in Texas: Tony Parker’s Game

Tony Parker is a retired NBA player who attained stardom with the San Antonio Spurs. A documentary of his life is streaming on Netflix now.

If there is a word to describe the France-born Parker, it is overachiever. Even if you are not a pro basketball fan, that is an admirable quality.

The film traces his life from childhood to adulthood as a basketball player, beginning in France and wrapping up in the  USA. Parker’s grit propelled him to be an integral part of the Spurs’ four-championship dynasty.

A part of the Parker story that I found of interest is that San Antonio is a one pro sports town. As a result, fans there have only the Spurs to support and partly as a result lavished their love on him.

He comes by determination to excel on the hardwood. honestly. Parker’s father was a pro basketball player who speaks in the film, along with his mother.

Spoiler alert. Parker emulated his dad’s work ethic. I also got the sense that his mother was a positive role model, with her video documentation of Parker’s youth as a basketball player a high point in the film.

Tony is one of three sons who shows that in competitive team sports such as basketball, it is not the size of the dog in a fight but the fight in the dog. At six foot two and 185 pounds, Tony was up to a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than many NBA players he faced.

That did not stop him in the least during his 2001 to 2018 career in the NBA. Parker’s mental toughness is on full display as he suffers a near-career ending injury then rehabilitates his way back to playing form.

The late LA Lakers superstar guard Kobe Bryant speaks in the documentary, humorously, about what it was like to play against Parker. The Lakers and Spurs play in the Western Division of the NBA.

The two teams went at it extensively and intensely over Bryant and Parker’s amazing careers. The lengths that Bryant went to achieve a competitive advantage over Parker are revealing in a delightfully unexpected way.

Interviews with Parker’s coaches and teammates are revealing. One with Tim Duncan offers a glimpse of how sternly he tested Parker as a 19-year-old rookie player over the course of an NBA season.

An interesting film angle is the focus on the French youth basketball program that nurtured Parker. He has shown no small support for youth hoopsters in his native nation since.

Parker has ridden his NBA fame to big commercial success in America, France and elsewhere. For example, we learn about his business presence in China, where the NBA is quite popular.

On that international note, the film expands our view of basketball abroad. Americans tend to get a US-centric sense of the sport and others that changes somewhat every four years during the Olympics.

A sports journalist, director Florent Bodin has crafted a family-friendly film that adults and kids can watch together. At 98 minutes, Tony Parker: The Final Shot,  scores.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com

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