When Tony Parker was selected as the 28th overall pick in the 2001 draft, no one—including the San Antonio Spurs—could have predicted the career that the 19-year-old Frenchman would go on to have.
It took just one season for the explosive young point guard to prove himself as one of the greatest draft-day steals in NBA history. Now, nearly 12 years later, Parker is not only an above-average late-first-round pick, but a potential Hall of Famer.
For years, Parker was considered a borderline All-Star, sneaking into the game in some years and barely missing it during others. However, he was rarely considered one of the best for a long time.
Initially a stranger to the "best point guard" discussions, Parker was often thought to be a tier below the league's most elite—which featured the talents of Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
The league's best point guard has been widely debated, though Chris Paul has made an appearance in every argument for a while—to the point where many will instinctively award him the title. Recently, though, Parker has joined the discussion, and for the first time in his career—San Antonio's superstar point guard may be worthy of the honor.
With Derrick Rose out for the season, Parker and Paul competed for the No. 1 spot, and the former's postseason success may be the final bit of evidence needed to award him the conjured up accolade.
Parker has long been idolized in San Antonio, and fans have recognized for years that he was more than your average starting point guard. Last year, however, was his watershed year in terms of finally breaking through as a superstar.
Finishing the season with the fourth most first-place MVP votes, Parker's 2011-12 campaign was monumental in his transformation into one of the league's best. Becoming the primary scoring option for the Spurs, Parker had fully collected the torch from Tim Duncan and excelled in his new leadership position.
An offseason eye injury initially brought questions about whether or not the league's newest superstar would be able to repeat his success, but Parker picked up right where he left off, executing beautifully whilst leading the Spurs to another dominant, 50-win season.
He wasn't the only point guard stealing the limelight, though, as Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul was mirroring Parker's performance with his own team.
After a while, it became clear that the two were the league's top floor generals, though it was difficult to determine which of the two was truly the best. Paul held on to the title for much of the season, though a single game gave Parker supporters a reason to cheer.
The two point guards faced off in Los Angeles days after the All-Star game, and after 48 minutes, Parker surpassed Paul, at least for a short while. His 31 points and seven assists were pivotal in his team's 26-point road victory. Paul, on the other hand, was practically invisible throughout the contest, contributing just four points on the night.
In the days following Parker's explosion, many gave him the top point guard nod, though Paul soon made the argument a two-sided one.
Finishing the season significantly behind Paul in the MVP-voting, it seemed as though Parker had once again fallen short of Paul. Any and all doubts were ignored by the Spurs' alpha-dog, though, as he soon showed fans that the season had not yet ended.
Paul has endured his fair share of postseason woes throughout his career—never making a deep run despite strong individual play. Tony Parker, meanwhile, has three rings and a Finals-MVP trophy to show for his playoff success.
The 2013 postseason hummed a similar tune, with Paul's run being cut short after one round, whereas Parker's is still very much alive.
Against the Grizzlies, Paul averaged 22.6 points and just over six assists before making his early exit, and though he, personally, was not a failure, his inability to lead the Clippers past the first round gave way for Tony Parker to make a final run at the top point guard position.
During the Clippers' struggles, Parker and the Spurs were enjoying plenty of first-round success, casually marching past the Los Angeles Lakers in the the first round. Scoring over 20 points in three of the four games—he fell two points short in the other—Parker's play allowed the Spurs to glide to the second round.
Now, the Spurs are in the midst of a more challenging postseason duel with the Golden State Warriors. Parker's positional matchup is Stephen Curry, the league's newest superstar. Curry's early dominance in the series initially spelled doom for the Spurs, until Tony Parker once again reminded the league of his presence.
Parker scored 25 points in the first half and went on to score seven more in the Spurs' 102-92 win over the Warriors.
Single-handedly taking over the game, the Spurs enjoyed plenty success on account of Parker's dominance, and now—with the series tied at two games apiece—he'll have plenty of time to do it again.
If the Spurs advance into the Western Conference finals, it will be a result of Parker's play. From there, he'll once again be a prime factor in deciding his team's playoff fate—and if he continues to shine as he did in Game 3, then a Finals appearance is highly plausible.
Of course, the team will have to take it one step at a time, but with home-court advantage, the Spurs remain fairly close to a series victory.
Parker will be the deciding factor, as he has been all season. He has already begun to close in on the gap left between himself and Paul, but with the Clippers having been eliminated, Parker alone will dictate whether or not he can claim hold of the top point guard honor.
The two are neck and neck, and some may argue that advancing to the second-round is enough to name Parker as the season's best point guard. However, if the Spurs move on, and their leading man replicates at least one more showing of his 32-point spectacle, it should be enough to confidently confirm the notion that Tony Parker was the NBA's top point guard of 2013.