PARIS (AP) — Tony Parker surely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the San Antonio Spurs. And, no surprise, the four-time NBA champion told The Associated Press on Friday he sees a bright future at his former team for fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama.
Parker, who is now retired, played 17 seasons for the Spurs. He won NBA titles with the team in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014, so knows the franchise inside out. He told the AP in a phone interview it will be the “perfect place” for the 19-year-old French wonder, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
“I know he wanted to go to San Antonio, and so it feels like it was destiny, with the French connection we built over the years,” Parker said. “And he is going to keep the legacy going. It’s pretty cool.”
As expected, the Spurs opted for Wembanyama, who has been creating huge expectations in the French league. Listed at 7-foot-4, he dominated in his final season with Metropolitans 92, leading all players in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
In spite of his huge frame, he can shoot 3-pointers with ease and his technical skills are stunning.
“He is unique,” Parker said. “His set of skills is unique. You know, we never saw a guy, a 7-5 (player), shooting like that, and having the dribbling skills that he has, and the way that he plays the game, it is just different. I can’t wait to see him play with the Spurs.”
Parker, the majority owner of French club Villeurbanne, has a good relationship with Wembanyama, who played a season for that team.
“So when the Spurs got the lottery pick, we talked, exchanged texts, and it was the same last night,” Parker said. “I’m very happy for him and I will definitely try to support him.”
Asked what kind of advice he would give to Wembanyama for a quick adaptation to the Spurs and the NBA, Parker said the kid just needs to be himself.
“And he is already like that,” Parker said. “He does not care about the pressure and expectation, and I think the Spurs is the perfect place for him. He is in very good hands.”
After matching a league record of 22 straight playoff appearances, San Antonio has not made the postseason the last four seasons, the longest drought in the franchise’s 50-year history. Parker believes that Wembanyama’s arrival will help rebuild a competitive team.
“That’s a good first piece,” he said. “Now he is going to need some help, to win a championship in the NBA is the hardest thing your are going to have to do. So with the Spurs, we’ve got a lot of work to do now to try to bring pieces around him that are going to fit, for us to be able to contend for a championship.”
A former member of the French national team, Parker was the FIBA Europe Player of the year in 2013 and 2014 and the league’s top scorer in 2011 and 2013.
Wembanyama’s rise to the top will also benefit France, Parker said.
“It’s great for basketball, it’s great for French basketball,” Parker said. “Obviously, the future years look bright for us with the national team.”