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TONY & EVA & THE SPURS: A LOVE STORY
Alan Shipnuck
June 27, 2007
BALANCING HIS ROMANCE WITH A TV STAR AND HIS JOB WITH THE SPURS HAS EARNED TONY PARKER TWO KINDS OF RINGS
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June 27, 2007

Tony & Eva & The Spurs: A Love Story

BALANCING HIS ROMANCE WITH A TV STAR AND HIS JOB WITH THE SPURS HAS EARNED TONY PARKER TWO KINDS OF RINGS

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IT'S ALL-STAR WEEKEND IN LAS VEGAS, ON FEB. 17, AND THE NBA'S MOST glamorous couple has just arrived on the red carpet outside of Pure nightclub. The mere sight of Tony Parker and Eva Longoria sets off a ministampede among the fans, photographers and overcoiffed TV talent. The club is giving Parker and Longoria big bucks to host a party, and running this publicity gantlet is the price they have to pay. Longoria, effortlessly working the crowd, looks dazzling in a revealing wraparound white top, short shorts and gold high heels that match her bling; Parker wears a beige suit and a faraway look in his eyes. Sensing his discomfort, Longoria takes charge as if she were the All-Star point guard. "We're over here," she whispers, turning Parker toward a bank of photographers.

"Now we're over here," she says, guiding him farther down the red carpet.

"And we're going to do one more over here," she says, spinning him toward another cluster of cameras. Finally, she gently removes Parker's hand from hers and steps away to be photographed without him. There is a reason she got top billing on the party flyers: Longoria is a TV star, tabloid siren and fashion trendsetter; her fianc� is merely in town for his second straight All-Star Game.

Taking in the spectacle, Parker offers a wary half smile. "This is Eva's world," he says, "not mine."

Soon they are herded inside, to a VIP section overlooking the dance floor. Thousands of commoners have paid $20 or $30 a head to attend; spotting Parker and Longoria, a sweaty mass of camera-wielding clubbers surges against the glass wall that separates it from its hosts. As the night goes on, the celebrity wattage increases, with Cameron Diaz, Nicky Hilton and Dennis Rodman among the boldface names stopping by. Sequestered in the VIP area, Parker finally exhales, rapping along with the thumping hip-hop and ordering bottle after bottle of Cristal for his guests. He and Longoria exit the club at 3 a.m. and then spend another hour gambling. When they call it a night, the All-Star tip-off is 13 hours away.

Arriving at the arena the following afternoon, Longoria relays her pregame pep talk. "I told Tony to take some aspirin because it was a long night of partying," she purrs. "He might be a little sluggish out there. He might be a little tired."

THIS IS TONY PARKER'S WORLD: A LOW-SLUNG, windowless building sheathed in aluminum on the outskirts of San Antonio, set amid medical clinics, churches and minimalls. This is the Spurs' practice facility, a structure befitting the franchise of no-nonsense superstar Tim Duncan and buttoned-down coach Gregg Popovich. On a team that prizes the Puritan work ethic, Parker is usually the last player to leave the court, thanks to his daily ritual of extra shooting drills. Today is no exception. It is two weeks after the All-Star Game, which means Parker is back to business. Long after his teammates have left, he's stroking free throws, changing baskets to force himself to adjust to different backdrops.

As Parker finally leaves the court for the weight room, Popovich talks about how the 25-year-old balances the responsibilities of running the Spurs and his glitzy life with Longoria. " Tony Parker is one of the most mature young people I've ever been around," says Popovich. "He's never been late to a practice, he's never missed a shootaround. His dedication to this team is total."

Well, total might be a bit strong. Two nights earlier, in a 107-91 home win over the Toronto Raptors, Parker had game highs of 27 points and nine assists, guiding the Spurs to their sixth victory in what would eventually be a season-high 13-game winning streak. Minutes after stepping off the court, he beelined for a local airstrip, where a private jet awaited. He is coy about his ultimate destination—"Wouldn't you like to know?" he says with a twinkle—but when Parker returned to San Antonio 24 hours later, Longoria was in town too.

This kind of jet-setting is perhaps not ideal, but Parker has some experience working around Longoria's schedule while she's in Los Angeles shooting Desperate Housewives, the hit show that has made her a household name. On Jan. 28 he scored seven of his team-high 19 points in overtime to help beat the Lakers 96-94 in L.A. After the game he proceeded directly from Staples Center to the Shrine Auditorium to escort Longoria to the Screen Actors Guild Awards. In the next day's USA Today, Parker's on-court heroics earned all of one sentence in the sports section. The life section featured a huge color picture of him and Longoria on the red carpet, Parker's sharp gray pinstripe suit matching the color of her flowing Vera Wang gown.

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