FRANCE is determined to give Tony Parker that sweet swan song as the national team goes for a berth in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
Parker, arguably the face of French basketball, has indicated he will no longer suit up in international tournament at the end of a 2016 campaign which he hopes to cap with a second consecutive Olympic appearance for Les Bleus in Rio de Janeiro.
That can only happen if France tops the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
France made strides in international basketball under Parker's leadership. In 2012, Les Bleus returned to the Olympic Games after 52 years in London, where they finished sixth in the men’s basketball tournament, before making history the following year by winning EuroBasket for the first time ever.
Parker didn’t play for France in the 2014 Fiba World Cup but by that time, its team was already solid as a host of other NBA players in Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw led the nation to a third-place finish.
A lot of the members of the French national team owe the success of the squad to Parker, so it's no surprise they are looking to give the San Antonio Spurs point guard a fitting send-off.
“He wants to go to the Olympic Games so I know he is going to give his all for the tournament,” said France forward Mikael Gelabale. “We know it is going to be the last time he is going to be with us. We will play everything for him.”
Parker is enjoying his last few games as a player of the French national team.
“For me, it’s just a great moment,” Parker said. “I’m enjoying every moment. It’s been an unbelievable ride and experience with the national team for the last 16 years, just coming here and enjoying every game and try to qualify for the Olympics.”
Team captain Boris Diaw said the whole team is rallying behind Parker.
“It’s a big tournament for him,” said Diaw, a teammate of Parker with the Spurs. “It’s his last summer playing. He is passionate about going to the Olympics, so that makes it very special for him.”
“He did so many things for this team,” said Florent Pietrus, one of the players from the national team who plays in the domestic league. “We know this is going to be his last summer with the team and we want to give him this opportunity to play in the Olympics.”
As his career in international basketball nears its end, Parker wants nothing less than an opportunity to play one more time against the world's best players in the Olympic stage.
“The Olympics will be a dream ending for my international career,” Parker said.