Familiar NBA faces make new Tony Parker documentary an engaging journey

With the meme-inducing impact of The Last Dance, ESPN’s 10-part portrait of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, and HBO’s much-anticipated two-part meditation on Tiger Woods, Tiger, nostalgia-fueled sports documentaries dot the cultural landscape.

San Antonio Spurs icon Tony Parker is now the subject of his own celebrity sports doc with Tony Parker: The Final Shot, which features interviews with Spurs luminaries including Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, David Robinson and Gregg Popovich.

Directed by Florent Bodin and released via Netflix, The Final Shot spans Parker’s formative years in France and sterling 18-season NBA career. Similar to how The Last Dance borrowed heavily from David Halberstam’s masterful tome Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, The Final Shot seems to take its narrative cues from Parker’s recent memoir Beyond All of My Dreams.

Like Beyond All of My Dreams, the documentary opens with echoes of Parker’s June 10, 2019 retirement from the NBA, interspersed with requisite career highlights and footage from his sprawling San Antonio home. By allowing us into Parker’s inner sanctum, replete with NBA championship rings, framed All-Star jerseys and an NBA Finals MVP trophy, Bodin quickly establishes Parker as, first and foremost, a winner — a mindset that Parker himself credits to his father.

“Tony has won a lot and been one of the best point guards in the league for a long time, so I think he’ll be recognized as a guy who helped change the NBA into a more international sport,” Hall of Famer David Robinson says in the doc.

After a brief recap of Parker’s childhood in France, featuring rare glimpses of his first forays into organized basketball from the ’90s, Bodin succinctly delves into Parker’s final season with the Charlotte Hornets. Parker’s final shot in the NBA occurred March 17, 2019, in Miami as a member of the Hornets, a team which he joined after a perceived slight from the Spurs.

From there, Bodin revisits Parker’s unlikely rise in France with glowing recollections from former teammates Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf. The film begins to tread familiar ground for Spurs faithful as it follows the 2001 NBA draft and Parker’s subsequent rookie season in San Antonio. Although forgotten details such as Parker’s near selection by the Boston Celtics and Tim Duncan’s preference for coconut donuts are a nice touch, the remembrances from those closest to Parker truly bolster the film’s narrative.

“My very, very first impression was that he was a probably a little bit full of himself on the court and maybe not as tough as he needed to be,” recalls Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “He convinced me in the next workout or two that I was totally wrong, and from that day on he was the guy. I gave him the basketball and he took over that position.”

Similar to Parker, the documentary hits its stride with San Antonio’s 2003 run to the NBA title. At that point, an air of gravitas comes from an unlikely source.

“I think it was the 2003 series,” the late Kobe Bryant says during an interview. “I feel like for him that’s when things really clicked into gear for him and it became very, very difficult for us to handle him. I think his game became more well-rounded. I think he had a pretty good handle on offensively what Pop wanted from him.”

The ensuing string of NBA championships, hard-fought battles with Bryant’s Lakers, and eventual rehabilitation from a career-threatening injury, ultimately paint a compelling portrait of a player who at one point considered himself a “third wheel” in San Antonio.

“Manu was always what Manu was and Tony became more of a scorer at some point,” Duncan recalls during The Final Shot.

“I was a scorer more at some points. He controlled offense. I controlled offense. It was that mesh there, but we always had each other’s respect, and we had each other’s trust that we were all doing it for the right reasons and just trying to win.”

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