Anthony Parker led Maccabi Tel Aviv to numerous titles and earned multiple MVP awards. However, his greatest success lies in the bond he forged with the fans and the club. Source: Imago Images
Anthony Parker led Maccabi Tel Aviv to numerous titles and earned multiple MVP awards. However, his greatest success lies in the bond he forged with the fans and the club. Source: Imago Images

Anthony Parker: the American EuroLeague GOAT

Basketball OlyBet 21.12.2023

Anthony Parker’s basketball journey was anything but easy. He put together a good enough college playing career at Bradley University to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. But when he got to the league, he was anything but good enough.

Foot and ankle injuries slowed Parker, and his NBA career appeared to end when he was cut by the Orlando Magic in 2000. He played only 57 games during his first three seasons, so he and his wife moved to Iowa as he tried to keep his career going in the failing Continental Basketball Association, but the NBA dream seemed distant. Or so he thought.

After trying to keep his career going in the failing Continental Basketball Association, Parker found an option in Maccabi Tel Aviv, an Israeli EuroLeague powerhouse. “Nobody leaves the NBA because they want to,” Parker said. “It was a situation where I didn’t have a team and wasn’t able to make a team in the summer, so overseas became an option.”

When Parker and his wife landed in Israel in 2000, they weren’t sure what to expect. They didn’t know much about the country. He just wanted to get his playing career back on track because at that point, Parker hadn’t basically played for three years straight.

Offensive and Defensive Star

Parker came to Europe during an interesting time as there were two major European competitions that both regarded themselves as the best in business: the EuroLeague and the Suproleague. Maccabi played in the latter and Parker helped them win the competition, averaging 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals.

For the next year, the Suproleague folded, and Maccabi joined the EuroLeague, where they reached the final four but lost to Panathinaikos. Parker increased his scoring output a bit and remained at a very high level.

Although Parker starred for Maccabi, his contract ended and he took a break at the start of the 2002-03 season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Midway through that season, he decided to return to action and accepted an offer from Virtus Roma, where he played 27 games, maintaining his usual numbers: 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.

But he couldn’t shake off the love he felt for Maccabi and Israel. At the end of the season in Italy, Parker returned to the Yellows, where he again became a key player, a true star with a great two-way game. Not only could he kill teams with his offense, he proved to be a formidable defensive player too.

The early 2000s were the golden age of Maccabi. Parker wasn’t the sole star in town; he formed a great core with center Nikola Vujcic, one of Europe’s all-time point guard greats, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and the Americans Derrick Sharp and Maceo Baston.

Parker’s highlights with Maccabi:

Playing a total of five seasons for Maccabi, Parker won the Euroleague twice and was the MVP in 2005 and 2006. He also made a great case to be seen as the best-ever American in the Euroleague.

The numbers say so too. Apart from the championships and MVPs, Parker’s individual statistics in the EuroLeague were just amazing. He averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals and shot the ball really well.

In many European leagues, the Performance Index Rating (PIR) measures a player’s effectiveness on the court. Parker’s EuroLeague career average of 21.4 places him first in the league’s all-time table, with only three players ever averaging more than 20 PIR per game.

Parker’s European stardom came full circle in 2005, when Maccabi won a friendly match against the Toronto Raptors, where Parker hit the game-winning shot with 0.8 seconds left. It was the first loss by an NBA team at home against a team from Europe and the first such defeat, home or away, in more than 20 years since Maccabi itself had beaten Phoenix and New Jersey during the 1984 preseason.

Parker’s Miracle Against the Raptors:

Although the Euroleague became dear to Parker, the Raptors offered him the chance to return to the NBA in the summer of 2006 with Parker recalling afterwards: “Playing at Maccabi allowed me the opportunity to mature as a player. It all lined up for me in my first two years back at Toronto.”

Great NBA Shooter

Parker signed with Toronto in 2006 at the age of 31. To pay tribute to his experience at Maccabi, he chose to wear the number 18, symbolizing life and good fortune in Judaism. He felt it was a way to represent Israel and show that he was still connected to them.

From the outset, Parker became one of the NBA’s best shooters and was aligned as a starter by the Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. He even inherited the second playing time of the team behind Chris Bosh with more than 33 minutes spent on the floor and helped the Raptors win 47 games that season which was the best record in the history of the franchise and the first division title for the Raptors.

In the play-off’s, Parker and the Raptors faced off against the New Jersey Nets where Toronto’s public enemy number one played. The former Raptor Vince Carter was limited to just making 13 shots of 43 from the field largely thanks to the great defenc played by Parker.

On the other side of the field, Parker added 26 points in Game 2 to bring down the Nets. A revenge on the team that had drafted him ten years earlier only to immediately trade him. Unfortunately for the Raptors, Carter’s resurgence occurred in game 3. Averaging 28.8 points over the next four games, he almost single-handedly eliminated his former team. Despite this setback, Parker left a lasting impression and won the hearts of fans.

In three seasons in Toronto, Parker played 243 regular season games out of the possible 246 and shot 44.1, 43.8 and 39 percent from three-point distance. During the 2009 off-season, Toronto decided not to re-sign Parker. However, this time, he didn’t remain without a team. The Cleveland Cavaliers signed him to a two-year deal, where Parker became teammates with the reigning 2009 NBA MVP, LeBron James.

To give James the best shot of winning a title before he could potentially become a free agent after the season, Cleveland also acquired Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison. The new-look Cavs won league high 61 games that season with Parker starting all 81 games that he played in but the Cavs lost to the Boston Celtics in the play-offs. Parker was excellent in the 11 play-off games, as he started all of them, averaged 30.1 minutes per night and shot 45.5 percent from downtown.

During the 2010 offseason, LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas left Cleveland, leading several other veterans to depart as well. These departures thrust Parker, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejão into the spotlight as the veteran leaders for the young team.

While the Cavs were nowhere near being a top team, Parker remained at a good level and in his three year stint with the Cavs, Parker averaged 7.6 points on 39 percent three point shooting.

Following the 2011-2012 season, Parker retired from professional basketball, but that didn’t keep him away from the game, as he is now the general manager of the Orlando Magic, completing yet another full circle as Magic was the team who ended his first NBA dream.


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