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Boardroom Q&A: Tony Parker

The San Antonio Spurs legend speaks with Boardroom about the lessons of team ownership, his friendship with Becky Hammon, and who he’s watching closest in the 2022 NBA Finals.

In a gray blazer with a black shirt and black tie, four-time NBA champion and future Basketball Hall of Famer Tony Parker was more than overdressed for a casual Zoom interview on Wednesday.

Just over two weeks after celebrating his 40th birthday, the French legend was in the owner’s box in the Villeurbanne section of Lyon after his ASVEL Basket club defeated Dijon 81-68 in Game 1 of the LNB Pro A semifinals. He was also multi-tasking as a spokesman for Mountain Dew, promoting a campaign promising that if the 2022 NBA Finals go to a seventh game, then you, me, and everyone will be eligible to receive a free MTN Dew Legend, a blackberry, citrus, and ginger-flavored soft drink exclusively available at Buffalo Wild Wings.

“I played in two Game 7s, and I really think the Finals are going to be really exciting,” Parker told Boardroom. “We have two great teams that play great defense with a lot of firepower on offense. And I really think it’s going to seven.”

Heading into this weekend’s Game 2, the San Antonio Spurs legend spoke with Boardroom about team ownership, lessons learned during his 17-year career, his friendship with Becky Hammon, and more.

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SHLOMO SPRUNG: You’re dressed a lot more formally than I am, but that’s okay.

TP: I can take off the tie if you want.

SS: No, it’s okay. What’s it like being an owner and in that side of the game?

TP: I love it. I prefer this side of the game. I prefer the front office and the ownership than being a coach. I just love everything about building a team, but also the marketing side where I can get fans to an arena and all that kind of stuff. Everything on the business side, too.

SS: Did you learn any of that while being a player?

TP: Yeah, of course. I learned a lot from [Spurs CEO] RC Buford, who was one of the best with the Spurs. I always spent time with him to try to learn. Then, I wanted to do it in France and get back to my country and do it here.

From RC, I learned how to create a team atmosphere, how to come in, be disciplined, bring everybody together to share common vision. On the marketing side too — he gave me a couple of tips on how you can get people to the arena and make sure they stay as long as we can.

SS: You played in five NBA Finals.  Is there a player in this series who kind of reminds you of someone who you played with on the Spurs?

TP: That’s a great question. I think everybody is unique, everybody’s different. Golden State, obviously with Steph and Klay and Boston, we see Jayson Tatum becoming a superstar. It’s hard to compare players to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, or Kawhi Leonard.

SS: Is there a player in this series who would fit the best on those Spurs teams you played with?

TP: I don’t know if it’s a great fit, but I’ll take Steph all day [laughs].

SS: How have you seen Jayson Tatum grow as a player?

The difference this year is how he’s involved his teammates, making plays for his teammates. He’s becoming a very good passer. We always knew he could score. We always knew he was a great shooter, but I think this year where he’s taking his game to the next level is becoming a greater point forward, involving everybody and creating for his teammates. That’s the biggest thing for him.

SS: You played a long time for Gregg Popovich. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned from him that stick with you the most to this day?

TP: Being consistent, bringing it every day, and being consistent and being disciplined every day. No days off.

SS: Another coach on that staff was Becky Hammon, who’s now coaching the Las Vegas Aces. What were your experiences with her and what’s it like to see her as a head coach?

TP: The great thing for me is I was friends with Becky before Pop hired her. I was already friends with her because we played the same position and she played in San Antonio. We hung out a lot and became great friends. Then, she played in Europe and we hung out at the Olympics, and then when she was hired by Pop, I was like, “oh wow, unbelievable.” Now you’re my coach, and we always laughed and joked about it.

We played a lot of poker together, so that’s why for me it was just a great experience to have a friend who’s a great basketball mind and was one of the best players ever in the WNBA, one of the best point guards. So for me as a point guard, it was just great to have another great mind on the team.

SS: So you played poker with her and now she’s coaching in Las Vegas?

TP: I know, that’s funny. When I saw she was hired by Vegas I was like I’m not sure you can play poker all the time. Now you gotta focus on the team [laughs].

SS: How are you two as poker players?

TP: I think we’re both pretty good players. She has always been very good in my cash games. She always played very well, and last year, I won a tournament with 300 players and I qualified to the main event [at] the World Series of Poker. I lost like at midnight on day one.

SS: What did you learn from playing in the league that helps you as a poker player?

TP: Discipline, discipline, discipline. Poker is all about discipline, taking your time, and reading your opponents.

SS: Did not think we’d be talking about poker during this interview. Last question,  besides for your ownership of the team, what are some other business pursuits that you’re interested in right now?

TP: Right now, I’ve been focusing a lot on my academy. We’re building a new academy in Paris right now. We just built one in Lyon. We’ve been open for three years now and the next one is in Paris after the 2024 Olympics. I’m the ambassador of education for the Olympics, and so we’re working very hard to open one in Paris and just try to create opportunities for kids to be successful in life.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.