Growing Up ... Anthony Parker

They’ve always had talent, but what were the Cavaliers like before they became rich and gigantic and famous?

Cavaliers’ two-guard, Anthony Parker, has traveled the globe – winning a pair of Euroleague MVPs before returning to the NBA and making his mark with Toronto and Cleveland. And this season, Parker has hovered among the top three-point marksmen in the league while the Wine and Gold continue their winning ways.

In today’s Growing Up, the articulate sharp-shooter took a moment to talk about his famous basketball family, his trumpet-playing days and which sibling threw down the first dunk …

My dad has been … the biggest influence on my basketball career. He played at the University of Iowa, and he and my mother were still in school when I was born. And then, even after, I was just always around basketball. He continued to play after he left Iowa – in men’s leagues and all that. I was just always around it. And, you know, at first, you see your father do something and you want to emulate it.

My brother, Marcus, played hoops … in high school and he had the opportunity to play in college, but he really wanted to be a doctor.

Marcus was one of those rare cases … when you ask a kid what he wants to be when he’s four years old – from the very beginning, he knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a doctor. And he wanted to go pre-med in college and I told him – just getting out of college myself – that there’s not a lot of time to play ball. So, if you’re really serious about being a doctor, throw yourself into that.

Today, he’s a radiologist … in Tampa, FL. He went to Johns-Hopkins, one of the top medical schools, and did his residency there. I’m more proud of Marcus than any of us because he stuck with it for all these years.

Candace and I … are 11 years apart. So, during the meat of her playing days – junior high and high school – I was gone already. I was either playing professionally or I was overseas.

She saw how hard my brother and I worked … at the game. And she saw what it took to get to where we were. So Candace already knew what she needed to do if she was going to be serious about the game. Around junior high, she made that decision to get serious – and it was scary from there on out.

When it comes to basketball with my family … it’s half-teasing and half-encouragement. You don’t get a big head around us – no matter what you’ve accomplished. But at the same time, we all know we have each other’s best interest at heart. And we give each other constructive criticism.

My brother can call me up … and I respect him and his knowledge of the game. So we all have that mutual respect for each other – from my mom, my dad, my sister and brother – where we can always call and talk about the game. And we never take it personally.

Playing pro basketball … was always a dream, and the first time I realized it could be more than just a dream was probably my junior year in college.

I wasn’t highly recruited … coming out of high school and I went to a mid-major college. I was OK. I played well, but nobody looked at me like, ‘He’s going to be in the NBA.’ But during my junior year, I had a few good games and started to hear some talk from scouts and things like that. Then it turned into ‘We’ll see.’

The most influential coach in my life … has always been my dad. My dad was my coach growing up and if he wasn’t my head coach, he was always an assistant or just came to the games. And I’ve had different coaches and different influences growing up, but my dad was always the rock. Skill-wise or anything I know about the game – everything started with him.

When you’re growing up … most coaches have a tendency to just stick the taller kids under the hoop. And with my sister you see it more, but my dad wanted us to be able to do everything on the floor – handle the ball, learn the post game, shoot well. You have certain strengths in your game, naturally. But he wanted us to nurture everything.

I loved playing soccer … when I was growing up in elementary school and junior high. But you have to make a decision on which sport to play – one way or the other. And I chose basketball.

I also played … the trumpet growing up. I loved my music. But at some point, you realize you can’t do everything.

The first time I ever dunked anywhere … was on the playground with my dad. He kept telling me, ‘You can dunk. It’s timing. You gotta believe it.’ I started off on the run, off one leg. And I put one down! But it was on the playground and I was actually wondering if the rim was bent.

The first time I dunked it in a game … yeah, the gym went nuts. I was a junior in high school and we just didn’t have a lot of athletes on the team. We didn’t have many dunks. And when we did, it was a pretty big thing. So I tried to dunk as much as I could to get the crowd into it.

The funny thing is … my sister dunked in a game before me or my brother dunked in a game! She was a sophomore in high school. Marcus and I were like: ‘You got all the good genes in the family.’