Ex-Spurs Star Tony Parker Says Kobe Bryant 'Always Had an Impact on My Career'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2020

BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 15: Kobe Bryant, and Tony Parker attend the game between Argentina and Spain during the 2019 FIBA World Cup Final at the Cadillac Arena on September 15, 2019 in Beijing, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Former San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker, who is now the president and majority owner of the French Pro A men's and women's basketball club ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, opened up about a number of topics in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.  

Parker explained why he attended Kobe Bryant's memorial in Staples Center and revealed what he and the late Los Angeles Lakers great discussed the last time they saw each other:

"It was important to be there because he always had an impact on my career. He was always there for me, giving me advice and text messages. He was just an unbelievable player. Maybe the closest to Michael Jordan, who I think is the best ever. I played against Kobe in his prime. I will always have fond memories of Spurs-Lakers, which was a classic with all of us in our primes. We will definitely all miss him. 

"The last time I saw Kobe was in China last year when he was an ambassador for the World Cup. We were sitting together having conversations about women's basketball and how we can grow it. He knew that I owned a women's team and was investing a lot in women's basketball. It's just sad that I can't see him anymore. I wish we could have done all that stuff together, because we would have done great stuff together in women's basketball."

Parker also called Michael Jordan the best basketball player of all time in the interview, said he will be in attendance to support Tim Duncan when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame and revealed his father-in-law and sister-in-law were diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19.

While Jordan's Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA in the 1990s, the 2000s largely belonged to the Lakers and Spurs. San Antonio won the championship in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014, while Los Angeles took home the title in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.

That meant Parker and Bryant ran into each other plenty during the Western Conference playoffs after the former entered the league as a first-round pick in 2001.

The Lakers eliminated the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs in 2002 and 2004 and the Western Conference Finals in 2008, while the Spurs defeated the Lakers in the second round in 2003 and the first round in 2013.

While Parker may not be able to match Bryant in terms of basketball stature and overall resume, he was a Hall of Fame-worthy player himself during that stretch of dominance by the two franchises. 

He was a four-time champion, the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, a four-time All-NBA selection and a six-time All-Star who was often tasked with initiating the offense as the point guard.