Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 18 News List

France's Parker named finals MVP

AFP , CLEVELAND, OHIO

The San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, left, holds the NBA Championship trophy while Tony Parker holds the MVP trophy after the Spurs won the NBA title over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday.

PHOTO: EPA

Tony Parker became the first European player to be named MVP of the NBA finals but the French guard expects even more NBA glory from Europe's finest.

San Antonio playmaker Parker averaged 24.5 points a game to claim the award ahead of three-time MVP teammate Tim Duncan on Thursday as the Spurs defeated Cleveland 83-82 to sweep the best-of-seven championship series in four games.

"It's great. It's just unbelievable. I'm speechless," Parker said. "When I look at that trophy, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and it's still going to be a dream."

Only two other non-US players have won the NBA Finals MVP award -- US Virgin Islands native Duncan three times and Nigerian-born Hakeem Olajuwon twice.

With German star Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA regular-season MVP award and Parker claiming his third NBA crown in five years with the Spurs, the future appears bright for European talent in the NBA.

"European basketball is improving every year," Parker said. "There's going to be more winning the MVP. I'm just happy to be the first."

Parker will marry actress Eva Longoria next month. His fiancee was crying as she took pictures of her groom-to-be in his finest hour. Parker's pal Thierry Henry, a French soccer star and Arsenal captain, was also on hand to watch.

"It's like a dream," Parker said.

Asked whether he was more popular in France now than soccer legend Zinedane Zidane, Parker said at least he has made a case.

"That's a great question. You should put me on the same list," Parker said. "Zidane is always going to be `The Man' in France because soccer is so popular. But hopefully French people can realize what I just accomplished."

"Three championships in five years -- that's not bad," he said.

Parker recalled with Spurs coach Greg Popovich how tough it had been in his first days with the club, but the difficulty gave way to a starting role after five games and steady improvement.

"I can definitely give a lot of credit to coach Pop because I would never be here without him," Parker said.

When the team pondered trading Parker for Jason Kidd, Parker convinced the club to keep him and the payoff has been tremendous.

"I told them I'm the right point guard for this team," Parker said. "I've got a lot of confidence in myself and I knew I could do it. I put in a lot of work to arrive here."

The effort was noticed by Popovich and Mike Brown, the Cavaliers coach who was a Spurs assistant for Parker's first three NBA seasons there.

"He has come a long way and it has been very satisfying to watch that progress," Popovich said.

"He was huge," Brown said. "We had problems stopping him from getting into the paint. With his quickness, his ability to shoot that little push shot, when you add all those intangibles, you see the growth from year one until now.

"Add that to poise and determination and you've got a very good player," Brown said. "He caused us problems the whole series."

Asked whether his third championship ring or his upcoming wedding ring would be best, Parker said: "Both. Can't choose. Both are very good. I like both.

"I'll definitely remember 2007. It's a great year."

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