How Tony Parker Was Minutes Away From Joining Celtics In 2001 NBA Draft

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On Causeway Street, Tim Duncan always will be remembered as the one that got away. But Duncan wasn’t the only iconic member of the San Antonio Spurs who was very close to becoming a Boston Celtic.

That other guy is Tony Parker, who will play his 1,097th NBA game Wednesday night against the Celtics in San Antonio. The Spurs took Parker 28th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, four years after they famously won the 1997 draft lottery over Boston to land Duncan with the No. 1 pick. The C’s had the 21st pick in the 2001 draft, and many thought they’d take Parker there — even Parker himself.

In a retrospective on that draft, ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg writes how Parker actually was presented with a Celtics hat when Boston came on the clock at No. 21, an indication the team was about to select him. But minutes later, that hat was taken away, as he was told the C’s were “going in a different direction.”

The Celtics instead drafted guard Joe Forte, whose NBA career lasted exactly 25 games — eight with Boston. Parker, meanwhile, fell to San Antonio, where he won an NBA title in his second season and remains after 16 years.

It turns out the C’s liked Parker a lot, even viewing him as the “premier point guard in the draft,” according to ex-coach Rick Pitino. So, what happened? Red Auerbach intervened in a rare miss for the iconic team president.

“… It’s now well-documented that Forte was the last hand-picked selection for Auerbach, who had watched Forte play in high school in Maryland and likely trumped those who might have preferred Parker,” Forsberg writes.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, and many liked the Forte pick at the time. But with Parker and Duncan winning four rings together since the ’01 draft, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been.

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Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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