July 19, 2006, Updated September 13, 2012

Anthony Parker: People are going to the malls, children are walking to school, pretty much in Tel Aviv life is normal.”I felt safer [in Tel Aviv] than I did in any major city in the States,” said Anthony Parker, the star basketball player for Maccabi Tel Aviv, looking back on his six years with the club after signing last week with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA.

“If you didn’t watch the news, you wouldn’t know all of that stuff was going on,” Parker told the Toronto Globe & Mail. “You look at TV and it portrays this battlefield, this warlike scene, and it’s not the case at all. People are going to the malls, children are walking to school, pretty much in Tel Aviv life is normal.

“It’s really a trade-off… The threat is different. You can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, versus walking down the street and getting mugged (in the US).”

The Toronto Raptors signed the six-foot-five free-agent swingman last week as GM Bryan Colangelo continued to revamp his roster. Parker, who signed a three-year deal worth $12 million, has been labelled the best player outside the NBA. He’s the reigning two-time Euroleague MVP. Parker, who averaged 15.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals in five seasons of Euroleague play with Maccabi, helped the team to three European titles and five Final Four appearances.

“At his age and at his skill level, I think it was the right time for him to make the transition into the NBA,” Colangelo said during a news conference. “We think that by securing Anthony, we are getting one of top free-agent guards that was available.”

This will be Parker’s second stint in the NBA, as he was drafted 21st overall in 1997 by the New Jersey Nets, before being traded to Philadelphia 76ers where he played for two years. He also spent time with the Orlando Magic before joining Maccabi.

Parker showed that to the world and then Phoenix Suns general manager Colangelo when he led Maccabi to a 105-103 victory over the Raptors in Toronto last October, hitting a fade-away shot with 0.8 seconds remaining. The win made Maccabi the first foreign team to beat an NBA team on North American soil.

According to Cleangelo, “I figure the best way to beat Maccabi is on our side this time.”

Parker said that he had only intended to stay overseas for a year and return to the NBA, but he grew to love Israel and playing for European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“If the NBA became the best opportunity, I would take advantage of it, but it was never a mission to get back to the NBA for me,” said Parker. “I didn’t know when I went there it would be six years, but it was great.

“I think I did a lot of development on and off the court overseas. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

In a statement, Maccabi said the team was “happy to have another player coming to the NBA.”

Maccabi fans and the country’s sportswriters were not so upbeat, however, and were saddened by the loss of the immensely popular player. Haaretz wrote that “the feeling at Maccabi is that its heart is being ripped out.

“Parker is not only the best player on the court, but also the most esteemed player in the dressing room.

“Anthony Parker grew up in Chicago during the magic years of the Bulls, who, nine years on, are only now beginning to get over the departure of Michael Jordan. Maccabi can be expected to recover a lot quicker from Parker’s departure, but it will be traumatic all the same.”

No matter how long it takes Israeli fans to get over losing Parker, the latest NBA signee will have just as difficult a time adjusting to leaving his adopted country. Calling his time in Israel a “great experience,” Parker said, “I think I have a different point of view and it’s really changed me on how I view the world and different people.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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