San Antonio Spurs superstar Tony Parker is living the good life. Only 26 years old, Parker has already won three NBA titles, copped an NBA Finals MVP award, been named to two All-Star teams and, most recently, became the first European-born global cover athlete for NBA Live.
Born in Belgium and raised in France, Parker spent much of his childhood playing soccer until he saw Michael Jordan in person during a life-changing family trip to Chicago in the mid-1990s. From that moment on, it was all basketball all the time for Parker.
He enrolled at The National Institute for Sport and Physical Education in Paris at age 14 and was playing low-level pro ball by the time he was 16. Then, as a 19-year-old in 2001, Parker was drafted by the Spurs. He's been living the good life ever since.
ESPN RISE: What's it like being on the cover of NBA Live?
Tony Parker: Some don't know that I was on the European covers of NBA Live before, but to grace it as their global athlete is quite an honor.
RISE: Are you an avid gamer?
Parker: I'm a big-time gamer. Since the PlayStation 2
came out, I've been hooked. I remember [NBA] Live
battles with my brothers you can't imagine. We
played NBA Live all the time.
RISE: By not playing high school basketball, do you think you missed out on anything?
Parker: Not at all. I was playing against players that
were bigger and stronger than me, and it forced me
to become a tougher, more mature player.
RISE: While growing up in France, did you idoliza any American basketball players?
Parker: My grandparents lived in Chicago, so when
spending time out there it was all about Michael Jordan.
He was my idol.
RISE: Besides basketball, did you play any other sports when you were younger?
Parker: Soccer, definitely soccer. At one point that
was the sport I played the most, but I have basketball
in my blood. Both my father and brother played
on the pro level.
RISE: Did you find the transition from pro European ball to the NBA hard?
Parker: No. You have to remember I've been playing
against grown men since I was 16, when at 16 or 17
Americans are playing in their age group.
RISE: When did you feel you could compete at the NBA level?
Parker: At the Nike Summit in 2000 I was playing
against players like Zach Randolph, Darius Miles and
other future NBA players. I performed well, and the
American coaches and scouts knew my name.
RISE: Did you ever consider going to college?
Parker: I was recruited heavy by UCLA, but it never
came to be. I was already a pro basketball player.
RISE: You've won a Finals MVP, been selected to two All-Star Games, and have three championship rings. What keeps you motivated?
Parker: I've always been the underdog because of my
size, so every time I step on that court I play hard. I
play like I have something to prove.