There’s not much about Anthony Parker that isn’t unique. Among NBA starters, he’s probably the only one who can rattle off useful phrases in Hebrew—something he picked up while dominating the European League from 2000-2006. He’s also the only playoff-caliber shooting guard who really does have the potential to be shown up on the court by his little sister. (He refers to little sis, All-American Candace Parker, as the Parker.) And he may be the only person who can read or owns a TV who’ll defend the good reputation of the NBA.
All of this uniqueness makes his Spirit Stick acquisition seem pretty boring.
Wait—like a cheerleading Spirit Stick?
Kind of. This particular Spirit Stick is one that is gained for displaying enthusiasm at the FCA Camp in Springfield, Ill. Parker was presented with the award after he spent a week last summer firing up the campers, pouring into them both spiritually and athletically. The award meant so much to the Toronto Raptors’ star that he spent the next night with the Spirit Stick tucked under his pillow.
Who better, then, to introduce the 2008 FCA Camp theme than someone who has been initiated into the camp setting with such flare?
As FCA rolls out “Get Focused: Desire, Discipline, Dedication, Destination,” Anthony Parker talks about his own FCA Camp experience, what it means to be focused and why you should get excited now about Summer ’08.
STV’s Jill Ewert:
First, tell me about your own FCA Camp experience.Anthony Parker:
It was great. This has been something that I’ve always wanted to get involved in. (FCA’s) Doug Pollock brought it to my attention. Unfortunately, I was overseas, and I couldn’t get involved. But being back, I definitely wanted to. It’s something that gave me the opportunity—especially as an NBA player—to share my faith. A lot of kids don’t get to see that side of professional athletics. So, it was an opportunity for me not only to do that, but also to grow spiritually as a Christian, myself.
“The Bible says that we should show the world that we are Christians by our love for each other. And you see that on the court.”
AP: THE INSIDE STUFF
Was the 1995 Missouri Valley Conference MVP while at Bradley.
Played in the NBA from 1997-99 before going to the European League, where he was a two-time league MVP.
Returned to the NBA to start at shooting guard for the Raptors in 2006, helping them to a post-season playoff appearance.
Led the Raptors in both 3-point and free throw percentage in 2006-07.
How did being at camp help you grow spiritually?
AP: Just by being put in situations where you’re speaking to a large group of people about your faith. Once you teach something, then you really learn a lot more about yourself and about the subject.
JE: Why did you choose to come to FCA Camp?
AP: To try to share my faith with the kids. To convert as many kids as we could and to help them see that we all fall short of the glory of God and that we need Jesus. People go to church and hear their pastor preach, and a lot of people think that’s only the pastor’s job to do that, but God called all of us to do that. And this is one of the ways that I can. The Lord has blessed me with the talent to play basketball; and I think we all are blessed with certain talents and gifts, and we have to use those for the glory of the Kingdom.
JE: FCA just rolled out its camp theme for 2008, and it is “Get Focused.” It’s based on the verse Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
As a Christian athlete, what does it mean to you to get focused?
As a Christian athlete, I think daily you have to refocus. For me, I do that by staying in the Word and trying to attend church when we have the opportunity during the season. But, I think there are so many distractions in our world as far as things you see on TV, hear on the radio—so many things are coming at you more than at any time in history. And you constantly have to readjust and get focused.
Athletically, we practice every day. We make sure we take our free throws. We work on all the things that keep us sharp and focused. And you have to do the same things as a Christian.JE:
Beyond “Get Focused,” there are four sub-themes: Desire, Discipline, Dedication and Destination. First, regarding Desire, the world tells us to desire so many things, but as Christians, in your opinion, what should we desire?AP:
You know, the Lord has blessed us with certain talents, and I think we should desire to give Him the glory through those talents. That doesn’t necessarily mean trying not to compete your hardest. When you’re blessed with something, you have to do it the best you can. Whatever it is! If your passion is basketball, if it’s playing the piano, if it’s painting a masterpiece—whatever your passion or desire is, you have to give it your all. And when you do that, you’re giving the glory to God. And whatever attention you get from that—if it’s hitting the game-winning shot or selling your art for thousands of dollars—whatever attention you get from that, it’s important to give Him the glory and praise for blessing you with the talent.
That’s something that I’ve really come to realize: that God’s plan for me is to share His Word. And He’s given me basketball as a platform and a vehicle to do that.
#18 Anthony Parker
Born: June 19, 1975
Weight: 215 lbs.
College: Bradley University
NBA Experience: 4 yrs.
Moving on to Discipline. Why is discipline important at all?AP:
God has called us to obedience, not success. The more disciplined you are, you can just entrust the rest of it to God. All you can do is be disciplined in obedience. Athletically, when you’re disciplined, you do the things necessary to get to the next level. People who are undisciplined, when things start going bad, kind of go awry and don’t stick with the game plan, and they are unsuccessful both spiritually and professionally.JE:
What are some practical ways to discipline ourselves spiritually?AP:
Spiritually, everybody has their routine and what they do. A lot of people wake up in the morning, and the first thing they do is read the Bible. But there’s also being a better husband, a better father, and taking time out to do those things. Giving your all at your job. You have to be disciplined. And when you’re disciplined in the small things, I find that you’ll be blessed with other responsibilities. So, the key for me was just trying to be disciplined in the small things at first. And then God will call you to more responsibility.JE:
What about physical discipline?AP:
Well, your body is your temple, and you have to take care of it. You can do everything right as a Christian as far as going to church and reading the Bible, but this body is where the Holy Spirit is—inside of you—and you have to take care of that. Eating right, getting rest, working out—it’s all a system. When you do those things, you think clearly and you don’t have as many health problems. And professionally, for guys like me, it can mean the difference between making the team and not making the team.JE:
Well, next is Dedication. In general, what does it mean to be dedicated?
• He’d want Denzel Washington to play him in the movie of his life. He claims, however, that his wife, Tamy, would cast Will Smith in the role.
• Who would play his wife? Eva Longoria.
• He missed Twizzlers and U.S. TV when he was playing overseas.
• He and Tamy have two sons: Julian and Alonso.
• The best thing about Toronto, according to Parker, is the people.
• His sister, Candace, is an NCAA All-American at the University of Tennessee.
• He enjoys classic R&B music, specifically referencing Luther Vandross.
Dedication means that if you have a passion for something, you’re going to stick with it. You set out goals, and you draw out a plan for how to get to those goals. And you’ve got to be dedicated to that plan in order to reach the goal.
For me, the fun is in the journey, not the destination. When you’re dedicated on the way, and you stick to the plan doing all of the things necessary for you to have success, whether you have success or not, I think you’re successful. You can go to sleep at night and know that you gave your best, and whatever God’s will is, that’s what is going to happen. You just try to learn from it and go.JE:
Describe what an athlete dedicated to the Lord looks like.AP:
You know, when you’re playing a game, you can almost pick out who’s a Christian and who isn’t. What it is exactly, I don’t know; but the Bible says that we should show the world that we are Christians by our love for each other. And you see that on the court. You see people encouraging others and how people react when a ref calls a foul. You see how they interact with their teammates. You see the respect they get from the refs and their teammates and coaches. There’s just something different about them.
The Bible says that we are the sweet aroma of God to others, and I think that sometimes you sense that aroma yourself, although you don’t really know what it is.JE:
Have you ever had that experience where you encounter somebody and you can tell right off the bat that they’re a Christian?
|“God has called us to obedience, not success.” |
– Anthony Parker
Yeah! I don’t know if it’s something in their eyes or just being around them and how they talk. But there’s power in the tongue, and the words that people say have so much persuasiveness one way or the other. When you speak good, good comes to you. When you speak evil, you know, you reap what you sow.
JE: Well, the last sub-theme is Destination. As Christians, we’re supposed to focus on the eternal destination. How does our eternal destination of Heaven and being with the Lord affect how you live your life and how you play your game?
AP: I think there’s a circle. There’s a circle that is you. And if Christ is outside of that circle, then the focus is all on you. And it’s, “How can I do this? How can I do that? How can I achieve worldly success?”
And a lot of people achieve that worldly success and aren’t very happy. They end up in rehab or in jail or just unhappy and depressed because it’s empty. It’s for nothing. But when you put Christ in the middle of that circle and you do everything for Him, there’s reason behind it. And that should be the ultimate destination.
You’re going to go through success, and you’re going to suffer failures in life. But if the ultimate destination is to please God, then you’ll learn from all of those things, and you won’t judge yourself like you’re a failure or you’re a success. You’ll give the glory to God. And that’s the most important thing.
For me, when I lived life just to please me, it was so unfulfilling. Success is OK, but it’s always, “OK, I did that. Now what?” There’s always something else. There’s always more money to be made. There’s always some other award to be gained. And I think there are some people who are so competitive— they’ve won everything in their sport—who are still not satisfied. They’re still hungry for something, and they don’t know what it is. We all have a desire in our hearts to love God and to have that connection with Him. You look at civilizations of the past over thousands of years, and the desire for God is constantly there; people just don’t realize how to fill that void.
|Want to experience FCA Camp for yourself and learn how to Get Focused?
Visit fcacamps.org or call 1-866-269-2267.
JE: That’s true. It’s like Solomon in Ecclesiastes where he talks about not denying himself anything and never being satisfied. It was just never enough!
AP: Right, right! And he was the wisest man to ever live. So, here’s a guy who had billions and billions of dollars in terms of today’s wealth and still... It’s nothing without God in your life.
From the Field...
|Camp Crew: (L to R)|
FCA’s Doug Pollock, Parker, Marcellus Sommerville (former Bradley standout and current European pro) and former NFL tackle Art Moore at FCA Camp in Springfield, Ill.
FCA area representative Doug Pollock began investing spiritually in Parker while the basketball star was a student-athlete at Bradley University. Pollock says that Parker was a very respectful, articulate and intelligent young man, and the two have remained in close contact beyond graduation throughout Parker’s American and European careers.
Thus, when it came to summer camp, it was only natural for Parker to join Pollock in ministering to kids through FCA. But it didn’t happen as you might imagine with Pollock petitioning Parker to spend an afternoon here or there with the campers.
“The great thing about it was that I didn’t talk him into coming,” said Pollock. “He had e-mailed me and told me he had some exciting news to tell me, and it was to tell me that he was coming back to play in America. As we continued talking, he revealed that both he and Tamy wanted to do more for God’s Kingdom. He said, ‘You’ve been telling me about FCA Camps for years, and I’d like to be involved.’
“The thing with him is that he’s a hands-on guy. He doesn’t just want to contribute money to something, he wants to be right in the center of things. And his enthusiasm and energy at camp were just contagious. He’d get there early in the morning to help unpack, and he’d stay late with the kids. He got involved with the Huddles, he spoke two or three times. He was really serious about it. His whole attitude and demeanor were incredibly refreshing.”
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Photos courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images