RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - There will be no golden end to Tony Parker’s international career, nor silver or bronze either after France bowed out of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament with a whimper on Wednesday falling 92-67 to Spain.
It was hardly a suitable goodbye for the man considered the greatest French player ever and widely regarded as one of the top point guards of all-time - from any country.
“For Tony Parker he is the best French player forever,” declared France coach Vincent Collet. “He was the leader we needed for a long time and I told him that I regret a lot that he has a last game like that.
“Despite this game Tony remains fantastic for the French national team and for all his achievements we must tell him thank you.”
For 16 years Parker has been the face of French basketball, inspiring a generation of young Frenchmen along the way, some of them, like the “Stifle Tower” Rudy Gobert, his team mate in Rio.
In understated French style, Parker walked into the press room and with no fanfare, fireworks or hyperbole confirmed the Olympic quarter-final was his last in a French jersey.
“It was my last game, I’m not going to change my mind on that,” Parker assured reporters. “I’ve been playing with the national team for 16 years, every summer and it takes a toll the wear and tear.
“I told the Spurs that it was going to be my last summer because I want to finish my Spurs career on a good note, I want to play another five years.”
Parker’s fame has grown from his work in the NBA; four championship rings with the San Antonio Spurs, an NBA Finals most valuable player award and six All-Star appearances.
But his passion has been the national team and putting French basketball “on the map” his greatest satisfaction.
The awards taken from 16 years of manning the French basketball ramparts are nearly as numerous but no less meaningful.
Parker signs off from national duty having failed to win an Olympics or world championship but there was progress. France won a bronze in the 2013 FIBA World Cup, a gold in 2013 from the Euro basketball championships and a bronze in 2005 that was the country’s first medal in 50 years in that competition.
“It’s mixed feelings because at the same time I am disappointed that we lost the game and I think we could have done a lot better,” said Parker. “But I don’t want to throw away everything we have done the last 16 years, I’m very proud of what we did on the national team.
“I told the whole team don’t forget about what we accomplished in 2005 when we won the bronze medal it was 50 years since French basketball won a medal.
“We brought French basketball onto the map. As a French player I am very proud of what we did my generation.”
Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Andrew Hay