Buford’s worldwide reach changed NBA

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

VIDEO: Tony Parker continues to do great things since R.C. Buford brought him into the Spurs’ fold

SAN ANTONIO — Tony Parker remembers his first encounter with R.C. Buford.

“It was a long time ago,” Parker said. “He was the first one who found me in Paris. After the Nike Hoops Summit, they started following me, calling my agent and saying they’d be interested. That’s when I decided to put my name in the draft.”

But Parker did not perform well in his first workout for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“The first workout, it was like 12 hours from the plane,” Parker said. “I went straight to the workout. That was kind of tough. I was kind of tired. Pop was like, ‘Eh, he’s not good.’ R.C. and Sam [Presti] were pushing for a second workout. … Then I did a second one with the Spurs. I remember finishing the workout and I told my Dad, “I hope I can be in San Antonio.” I had no clue about the city and stuff like that. I just had a feeling after that second workout.”

Three NBA championships the later, the feeling has proved true.

For Manu Ginobili, it was a shared meal with Buford.

“Yes, I was in Italy,” Ginobili said. “He came to dinner. It was 14 years ago, a long time. Before that, I got emails that he was watching me, getting the tapes. But I was in Bologna, and that was my first close approach with an NBA person. It was great.”

In fact, it has been nothing short of revolutionary.

Maybe it’s only fitting that the NBA world finally brought the Executive of the Year Award to Buford’s doorstep. After all, he’s spent so many years bringing the world to the NBA.

While there were exotic names — Hakeem Olajuwon, Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulionis, Alexander Volkov, Georgi Glouchkov — drip, drip, dripping into the NBA in the 1980s, it was Buford and Popovich who cranked the valve and opened the international pipeline of talent to the league.

Today roughly 25 percent of the players on NBA rosters are from outside the United States and no place embraces the fact that basketball is the world’s game more than San Antonio, where nine of the 15 players on the Spurs playoff roster are internationals — Tim Duncan from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Parker and Boris Diaw from France, Ginobili from Argentina, Cory Joseph from Canada, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes from Australia, Tiago Splitter from Brazil and Marco Belinelli from Italy.

“The biggest part of that is having a coach that was willing to play with international players and to respect the contributions that guys like Manu and Tony and Fabricio and the players we have now,” Buford said. “It started first with a coach who was willing to take that and had great respect and admiration for the style that they played.

“I think it provides us with opportunities to be a culture that’s unique. The city of San Antonio is obviously very multicultural. The way our owners and fans have supported all those players has put them in a position to be successful.

“The mindset had to be: Why should we put borders on our player acquisitions and our player recruitment? There are good players all over the world, whether from Bexar County (San Antonio) or someplace else.”

Popovich and Buford have been an inseparable tandem since they arrived in San Antonio together and have built the Spurs into the model franchise with their stability and consistent winning that has brought four NBA titles. They have not just changed the culture of the Spurs, but changed the game itself by incorporating, embracing and perfecting the passing, moving, shooting style that is played internationally.

While Popovich has been recognized as NBA Coach of the Year three times, including this season, it’s the first honor for Buford.

“We’re all excited for him,” Popovich said. “Long overdue. He’s done a great job for a very long time, so we’re giving him the requisite amount of you-know-what all over the offices. He walks down the halls and we hit the walls, hit the sides as a group for him and all that stuff.

“There’s not a formula — you made this trade, you added this and you did this contract. It’s not always a thing you can add up. But the bottom line is he’s the man this year and that’s very exciting for all of us.”


  1. Gillsy says:

    I look at the list of draft picks above and think about Pop’s response to how to get a good team. Just draft the first pick every 10 or 15 years. Yea there is a bit more to it than that.

  2. PalmOil Preference says:

    Shout to the Spurs in the 3rd best player in the league Tony Parker. I’m not a spurs fan my eyes just know what they see.

    The purpose of this comment is to blast NBATV because I cannot find any other forum. This is just pathetic during the off season but during the playoffs you guys still can’t entertain us with some type of show or something. I have to wait until 5 o clock to hear the Starters. Please as a die hard fan please give us something to watch. It’s playoffs the MVP hs got announced the sixth man year just or announced we had a top coach fired. But nooooooo everyone wants to talk to about the Draft. NBA tv is my last hope to get basketball news but I can’t because NBA game time plays for 26 hours and then the remainder is playback games. This is just ridiculous if it wasn’t for Donald Sterling I do not even think we get any type of pub. I want Adam Silver to clean house at NBA TV and get some young fresh talent in there that produce shows to highlight all aspects of our game. We have the best sports personalities past and present but all we get laziness. THEY PUT OUR 2nd round game on ESPN 2, ESPN 2!!!! Are you kidding me espn 2 is reserved for softball and competitive beach volleyball. Can something please be done I think I speak for fans that actually love the NBA and try to watch it’s network when I say: GIVE US SOMETHING WATCH!!!!!!!!!! Please and thanks.
    The most impactful and entertaining playoff series in a while is being swept under the rug.

  3. rene says:

    spurs,,,, very special team..

  4. Jay Ramos says:

    Nice story! Content is really good. Just need spelling and grammar checks… Other than that, Pop is the best thing that happened to the Spurs….

  5. Congratulations RC Buford! Indeed, the “SPURS WAY” has earned the admiration of the world. No discrimination in San Antonio. As a result, fans from as far as the Philippines have paid tribute to this team. Might want to check out the music video “WIN IT ALL FOR SAN ANTONIO” which is an original song made by a Filipino dedicated to the SPURS.

  6. Pistol says:

    Look at the number of top ten draft pics in their roster:
    Duncan – 1st
    Kawhi Leonard & Austin daye – 15th
    Belinelli – 18th
    Boris Diaw – 21st
    Tony Parker & Tiago Splitter – 28th
    Cory Joseph – 29th
    Jeff Ayres – 31st
    Matt Bonner – 44th
    Danny Green – 46th
    Patty Mills – 55th
    Manu Ginobili – 57th
    Aron Baynes – undrafted
    Think about it! In my mind this is amazing.

  7. Agustin says:

    There are typos in “Ginobili from Argentian”: His country is actually spelled “Argentina” and player’s name should be written “Manu Ginobili”, in bold, as the other guys names.

  8. ESKINA KORN says:

    GO SPURS!!!
    TP ON THE MIX!!!

  9. NBAparker says:

    GO SPURS!!!!!!

  10. wowow says:


  11. Tim says:

    How many times do we have to correct this? Tim Duncan is not, and has never been, an “international”. The US Virgin Islands are part of the United States and he’s been an American citizen from birth. The big hint should’ve been the time that he played in the Olympics–for the United States.

  12. Med Student says:

    Well Overdue! Long Overdue! How do you say it in French, Portuguese, Italian, Canadian? Eh!

    But shame on the NBA for overlooking humility and team first approach to running a club.

    This year should have been a Clean sweep, Hat trick for the Spurs

    Best Record of The Year – Spurs
    Coach of The Year – Pop
    Executive of The Year – RC Buford
    True MVP of The Year – T.P, Tony Parker
    Highest Scoring Point Guard All Time in NBA Playoff History – Parker
    Most International Players on an NBA Team – Spurs