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Fran Blinebury

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New teammates Tony Parker and Boris Diaw have been cohorts since their high school days in France.

For Parker, Diaw, joining forces in NBA is dream come true


Posted May 2 2012 9:35AM - Updated May 2 2012 3:53PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Dreams are the same in any language.

Hope, desire, fantasy and vision.

Fifteen years ago, it took a trip through Tony Parker's vivid imagination to see him making a pass to his good buddy Boris Diaw under the bright lights of the NBA. On Sunday in the first game of the playoffs, all that was needed were a few trips down the court.

"Amazing," said Diaw.

"Wonderful," said Parker.

Les Amis first met when they were a pair of teen-agers at the French National Institute of Sport and Physical Education (INSEP), a lush, leafy campus just outside of Paris that is a boarding school/training center for gifted athletes.

Back then, they lived in the same dormitory, separated by only a narrow hallway, sharing meals and books and goals and aspirations.

Diaw at 15 was tall and raw and the son of Elisabeth Riffiod, one of France's greatest female basketball players when he arrived at school. Parker, one month younger, was already a well-known entity in French hoop circles.

"Everybody was talking about this 15-year-old kid who was playing in Paris," Diaw said. "I had already heard the stories. I wouldn't say he was a legend. But he was already above the pack back then."

They became fast friends, the whippet-like guard who idolized Michael Jordan and the taller, stronger forward who grew up a fan of Magic Johnson.

"I guess I patterned myself after Magic," Diaw said. "I was always going to be tall. I could see over everyone. I liked to pass. I guess you try to play like who you see. I guess it was subconscious. Really, I was just playing. That's what we all were doing -- just playing."

They quickly became best of friends, as close as brothers who liked the same jokes, shared the same tastes and yet challenged and tested and pushed each other's limits. Parker loved Diaw's outgoing personality. Diaw was drawn to Parker's impish sparkle and on-court fire.

Parker had already been playing at a higher, faster level before Diaw met him, playing against older, taller, stronger opponents and thriving, gaining not only experience but a confidence bordering on cockiness.

They were quite a pair. Parker practically burned rubber up and the down the court, while Diaw was always smoother than pate foie gras, cooler than the other side of the pillow.

"Basketball came easy to him," Parker said. "He sees everything in advance."

What Parker saw was a path to the NBA, where no French player had ever gone before then.

"Everyone thought about playing one day in the NBA -- it was always out there," said Diaw. "But for Tony, there just wasn't any doubt in his mind. He was going to do it."

Of course, Parker did, drafted by the Spurs at age 19 in 2001. Diaw followed him two years later, drafted by the Hawks. They spent more than 8 seasons in the league, playing for different teams, circling in different orbits. They played against each other twice in the playoffs when Diaw was with the Suns.

While Parker quickly became entrenched as part of the core of the Spurs franchise, winning three championships, getting named the MVP of the 2007 Finals and playing on four All-Star teams, Diaw was recognized for his all-around skills, but was traded from Phoenix to Charlotte, where he spent three unfulfilling, unhappy years with the lowly Bobcats.

All during that time, Parker and Diaw continued to play on the French senior national team. Diaw was named the team captain in 2006. But it was Parker who was the explosive, relentless, driving force in September when Les Bleus -- a roster that also included NBA players Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum -- rose up to finish in second place at the Eurobasket tournament in Lithuania and earned France its first berth in the Olympics in 12 years.

It was that tournament where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he saw Parker play with a greater passion and will than at any time in his NBA career and he challenged his point guard to duplicate that this season in San Antonio. As a result, Parker has had the finest of his 11 NBA seasons and has forced his way into the conversation for the MVP award.

Could it get any better? Well, two days after he was waived by Charlotte on March 21, Diaw was signed by the Spurs. Just like that les amis were reunited and living together once more with Diaw set up in residence at Parker's guest house. Two weeks after he joined the Spurs, Popovich put Diaw into the starting lineup on April 8 against Utah.

"When Pop said that Boris was in the starting five it felt like a dream," Parker said. "Growing up and going to high school together, both dreaming about the NBA, I never thought I would ever be in the starting five with him and with the Spurs, the best team in the NBA.

"It's not every day you can play with one of your best friends on an NBA team and be starting and can be trying to win an NBA championship. It's a great experience and hopefully we can go very far this year.

"Definitely, there are a lot of French journalists, a lot of stories about us. They have been following us for a long time, because we have been together on the national team for a long time."

But Tony Parker and Boris Diaw have never been together like this.

Equipe de reve. Dream Team.

Better yet, reality.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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