NBA Star Anthony Parker's Interview and Travel Priorities
A successful career isn’t as fulfilling if you don’t take time to enjoy the rewards. Anthony Parker’s fast-paced life as a professional basketball player took him around the country during nine years in the NBA and around the world playing overseas for six years, yet he rarely had time for more than a quick meal in any one place before moving on to the next. Parker retired from the Cleveland Cavaliers recently and accepted a scouting position with the Orlando Magic, a job that will keep him closer to home and his wife and two young sons, in Tampa, Fla.
We caught up with Parker, 37, to talk about how he’s enjoying his newfound free time, including a family trip to the London Olympics to cheer on his sister and the gold-medal-winning women’s basketball team
It’s only been a few months since you announced your retirement from the NBA, but how’s the adjustment been?
I’m enjoying it. It’s been good for my family because we know we’ll be settled here going forward, as opposed to always having to migrate either from the season back home or from home to wherever I’m playing at the time. My sons have gotten involved in some activities that they wouldn’t normally have been able to participate in, which is important as they get older. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I can relate. I’m enjoying time with my family and enjoying things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
You initially left the NBA to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel; how was that experience?
My first year over there was the biggest adjustment, both on and off the court. A lot changed in a short amount of time—I had just gotten married, and we moved to the other side of the world where we didn’t understand the language. But it turned out to be the best experience. We have friends all over the world now, and being familiar with a lot of different countries and languages really gives you a different perspective on people both abroad and at home. I really embraced the experience and am so happy that I was able to have it.
How did playing overseas advance your game and allow you to return to the NBA as a starter?
It gave me the opportunity to continue playing at a high level and, in doing so, to mature as a player and evolve my game. My best basketball experiences happened when I played for Maccabi Tel Aviv. I went over there with the intent of trying to get back to the NBA the very next year, but after that first year I was like, “This is kind of nice. I could get used to this.” If the NBA was something that made sense and happened to me then great, and if it didn’t then I would be content with my career overseas.
You led Maccabi Tel Aviv to five Israeli Super League national championships, three European titles and you were also voted Euroleague MVP two years in a row. Was there a degree of recognition when you went out in public?
Yes, there was. Israel isn’t in Europe, but we participate in the European league, and among European teams Israel and Lithuania are hugely into basketball. People think of the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys as America’s teams, and that’s how Maccabi Tel Aviv is to Israel. There’s a great degree of national pride in Israel, and people really rallied around our team. I developed a great relationship with the fans; however, I was always happy to come back to the U.S. and be with my family and have private time.
That’s also where you adopted the number 18, which you wore throughout the rest of your basketball career.
The number 18 is related to chai, which is a symbol of life and good fortune in the Jewish faith. For me it was a way to bring the experience that I had with Israel and Maccabi Tel Aviv and the fans back to the States—to let them know that it wasn’t all forgotten.
Were you always focused on your next game, or did you have time to enjoy the places that you visited?
With a basketball schedule you don’t have a lot of time to see the sites while you’re traveling, but we did have a couple of rare opportunities. I did get a sense for different cultures and perspectives around the world, and that was really refreshing. Anywhere you go people are basically the same—they want good things for their children and pretty much the same things that you or I would want. Traveling abroad really drove that point home.
What are your travel priorities now?
Living overseas really sparked a love of travel, and we try to take our kids along with us as much as we can. Last summer we went back to Israel—it was the first time we’d been back since my youngest son was born there—and it was great to show him where he was born and visit our friends. It’s so valuable to experience different things. I can’t imagine how much my kids’ perspective differs from mine at that same age, not having been to nearly as many places as they have.