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6.25.2007

Champion Tony Parker was not Popovich's favorite when he started in the Spurs

San Antonio had just won the title of the NBA, and the boss Gregg Popovich had to speak with Tony Parker. Right on the stage with the squad being presented with the championship trophy, the coach told the player about a big change over the time.

"I just reminded him that when we gave him his first workout, we didn't think he was tough enough - and we sent him home," Popovich later admitted.

"We set up another interview, another workout where we stacked it and had some experts go after him physically, and he was fantastic in that one. Tony remembered that and had a big laugh.

'And I added: 'Now you're standing here on the stage with the Finals' MVP trophy,' and he just kept laughing. And it is truly unbelievable."

Indeed, San Antonio Spurs owe their fourth title in the last 11 years largely to a man who used to watch Michael Jordan on TV at 3 am in his home country, France, and dreamed of playing in the NBA.

What's more, Tony Parker recalled his first workout as Popovich seethed: "I think that was terrible, and coach Pop said, 'I never want to see him again,' Parker expressed.

"And then I came back and I did better and fortunately they drafted me. After five matches, he puts me in the starting five.

Maybe it was just like growing pains. But I'm sure that it was good because it made me a better player."

The Spurs were aware of Parker's desire or skills, but they were not so confident about his toughness.

So, the pre-draft workout the club had arranged was just the first taste. Soon after, Popovich began demanding - in practice, during timeouts and after games - that Parker learn to do everything better than he had the day before.

"Despite the pains, I was doing pretty good, in my opinion. Being 21, I was doing good, but it was never enough. I could score 14, 15, it was never enough."

"Yes, I felt like it wasn't very fair, all the criticism. But I think I will never be where I am now if I didn't go through that experience."