At the ninth try, Spurs guard Tony Parker finally won a major tournament with the French National Team. A Eurobasket where low quality of play was the norm and star power weak due to the many absences presented a perfect opportunity. Parker took advantage of it and led France to its first title, capped with an 80-66 victory over Lithuania.
It was redemption for Parker following the devastating loss to the Miami Heat at the NBA Finals and at the same time vindication in the face of FIBA jingoists that have refused to place him in the same standing as Drazen Petrovic or Arvydas Sabonis as one of the all-time European greats because of his lack of success in international competitions.
Well, it finally happened for him and, as expected, the road to gold went through Spain, the team that had defeated the French eight times in a row coming into the Eurobasket. With no Pau Gasol in the lineup, the Spaniards looked beatable and France eked out a 75-72 overtime win in the semifinals behind Parker's 32 points.
In leading France to the championship, Parker became the top scorer of the tournament and second-best in the history of the Eurobasket, surpassing Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki.
Obviously, the 31-year-old Parker was voted MVP by the media. He's also HoopsHype's pick for the award.
These are other players that excelled in Slovenia:
Goran Dragic (Slovenia). Terrific guard that would be so much better with improved decision-making. He was Slovenia's best player – especially in the open court – but couldn't save his team from elimination against France. Too many hero shots in the biggest game. Still, the highly-motivated Suns guard put together a solid tournament.
Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia). An all-around go-to scorer for Croatia that should have the Nets salivating. Looking more and more like a draft steal with that 31st pick in 2011.
Linas Kleiza (Lithuania). A bust in Toronto, Kleiza remains an effective player for Lithuania. It was team effort rather than individual play that took Lithuania to the championship game, but Kleiza's role was central – especially in the semifinal game vs. Croatia.
Marc Gasol (Spain). With his brother sitting out the Eurobasket, the Grizzlies center became the featured big man in Spain's offense. Although often a reluctant shooter, Gasol still led the Spaniards in scoring with 13.9 points per game, his best mark in a FIBA competition. Was unquestionably the best defensive player in the tournament.
Mantas Kalnietis (Lithuania). Point guard play was supposed to be the main Lithuanian weakness, but ended up being a strength thanks to the brilliant performance of trigger-happy Kalnietis, who finished No. 1 in assists.
Boris Diaw (France). His high basketball IQ continues to be a huge asset for France. Was a playmaker for the team – to the point of finishing with more assists than Parker.
Alexis Ajinca (France). The former Maverick center filled in nicely for Joakim Noah at the center position. Was a threat offensively at times and made it very tough for France's opponents to finish at the rim with his freakish length. Still gets pushed around.
Nicolas Batum (France). Stepped up in the final after a no-show in the semis against Spain. His length and athleticism gave him an edge against most of the competition in Slovenia.
Sergio Rodriguez (Spain). In a point guard rotation that featured Wolves' Ricky Rubio and Mavs veteran Jose Manuel Calderon, it was the former Blazer who truly shined. Rodriguez came off the bench and often changed the game for the Spaniards with efficient scoring and playmaking. No longer a defensive liability, Rodriguez merits a second look by NBA teams. With two years left on his contract with Real Madrid, an NBA return looks like a long shot, though.
Rudy Fernandez (Spain). Cut down on the antics and performed better. A key two-way player for Spain that made up some for the absence of Juan Carlos Navarro.
Gigi Datome (Italy). Despite its disappointing finish, Italy was one of the feel-good stories in the tournament after years of bombing in FIBA competitions. Datome's play was one of the main reasons. The Pistons got themselves a high-energy forward with great shooting skills. Think of a poor man's Shawn Marion with way better shooting form.
Pooh Jeter (Ukraine). Hired gun that played within a team concept. Led his team in both scoring and assists and Ukraine surprisingly qualified for next year's World Cup.
Nenad Krstic (Serbia). Was destroyed by Marc Gasol in the quarter-finals game vs. Spain, but for the most part delivered and was a steady veteran presence for a Serbian team with an average age of 23.
Jeffery Taylor (Sweden). The Bobcats' sophomore guard took more than 25 percent of the shots of his team and ended with the best scoring average of the tournament.
Jan Vesely (Czech Republic). Looked like the player the Wizards drafted and not the one we've seen in the NBA. The body of work was limited, though, since the Czech Republic was eliminated after only five games.