Spurs retire French NBA star Parker’s number in ceremony

Former San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, left, with his wife Axelle Francine-Parker poses under his jersey during his retirement ceremony in San Antonio on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Spurs retire French NBA star Parker’s number in ceremony

  • Tony Parker won four NBA titles in 17 seasons with the Spurs, joining the club in 2001
  • Former coach Gregg Popovich expects Parker soon to be named to the Basketball Hall of Fame

WASHINGTON: French NBA star guard Tony Parker was given an emotional tribute Monday by the San Antonio Spurs, who retired his number nine jersey in a post-game ceremony after a loss.
Parker won four NBA titles in 17 seasons with the Spurs, joining the club in 2001 and becoming a starter as a 19-year-old European newcomer after only four games.
He averaged 15.5 points, 5.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds over 1,254 career NBA games, playing a final campaign last season with Charlotte after making his fame with San Antonio.
“Thanks for all those years,” Parker said. “It was a crazy ride.”
Parker helped spark the Spurs to NBA crowns in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 and was named the 2007 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player when he averaged 24.5 points a game in San Antonio’s sweep of Cleveland in the best-of-seven final.
After Memphis beat the Spurs 113-109, the ceremony saw several former teammates and coach Gregg Popovich pay tribute to Parker, who led the AT&T Center crowd in a final cheer before watching his number unveiled among the others in the arena rafters.
“I want a big ‘Go Spurs Go.’ Can we do it one last time for me?” Parker exhorted the spectators, who reward him with a memorable final cheer.
The most emotional moments came when Popovich spoke about the player he doubted at first, then helped mold into an NBA superstar.
“Tony, I want to apologize for all the physical and mental abuse I gave you the whole time you were here,” Popovich said with a smile.
“I’ve been the luckiest guy in the world to see you from age 19 to this point. I feel fortunate I was there to see it all. I love you.”
Popovich expects Parker soon to be named to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Pretty soon we’re going to be there when you enter the Hall of Fame,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing. You have done amazing things. You’ve made my life richer” although he joked, “I spent any money on wine you taught me all about.”
Parker appreciated the lessons he learned about the NBA and life from Popovich.
“You are always the boss but on this night, I am,” Parker said with a smile.
“For me, the impact you had in my life — you were the unbelievable second dad to me, the way you taught me stuff and made me better.
“Thanks for believing in me. You inspire me. You taught me a lot and I’ll be thankful forever.”
All spectators received a black “Merci Tony” T-shirt, the silver lettering accompanied by a drawing of Parker going up for a shot.
Fellow Frenchman said of Parker: “There’s no way you can talk about French basketball without Tony.”
Argentine star guard Manu Ginobili, who recalled being showed around as a newcomer by confident teen Parker, said, “It has been a pleasure man. I wish you all the best.”
Ex-Spurs star Sean Elliott called Parker “an absolute master in the open court with his speed only matched by his heart.”
Australian guard Patty Mills, a current Spurs standout, looked to him as an idol growing up.
“As a small point guard coming from overseas, he’s someone I watched and looked up to — he has been an inspiration for sure.”

Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

Updated 28 min 31 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

  • Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host a Ladies European Tour event in March

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continued its groundbreaking sporting development with Thursday’s announcement that a Ladies European Tour (LET) event will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from March 19 to 22.

The 72-hole stroke play tournament will be the first time that professional female golfers have played in the Kingdom and will  have a $1 million prize fund for which 108 golfers are expected to compete. It will be broadcast domestically and to more than 340 million homes across more than 55 countries worldwide, according to a press release from Golf Saudi.

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is also the host of the men's European Tour’s Saudi International. Dustin Johnson won the first staging of the competition this year and will return in January to defend his title against a world-class field including Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said in the press release announcing the ladies competition: “We are delighted to be creating history by hosting the inaugural ladies professional tournament in March. I hope the tournament will inspire many women to take up the great game of golf and awaken their interest in this wonderful sport. We warmly welcome all the players to the Kingdom and wish everyone a rewarding experience in our magical country.”

“I am incredibly excited by this announcement and it is an honor for the Tour to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia,” said LET CEO Alexandra Armas in the press release. “(It) is an exciting prospect for everyone at LET and having seen the quality of the event staging for the Saudi International, I am sure this will be a fantastic experience for our players.”

Alongside the announcement of the tournament, Golf Saudi also revealed several new ambassadors from the LET who will help to promote golf in the Kingdom. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.

Looking ahead to the inaugural LET event, three-time Tour winner Booth said: “I’m looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour and of course to competing over the Royal Greens course. I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play; they have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams.”