Jabari Parker’s Homecoming About More Than Basketball

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Jabari Parker is one of two players to start on four straight IHSA state title teams. Sports Illustrated, in 2012, declared Parker the best high school basketball player since LeBron James. And Parker also won the illustrious Mr. Basketball Illinois award twice, becoming the first non-senior to win the award in his junior season. He went on to play at Duke University under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, and after multiple ACL injuries- to the same knee no less -Parker has finally made his way back to Chicago, this time as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

But for Parker, this homecoming is about more than basketball.

Parker’s long list of achievements in Illinois hoops has made him loved and revered in Chicago, but he is just as loved, if not more, for his incredible work in the community. Parker was in attendance at the third annual PEACE Tournament in 2014, an event conceived to get together young men from troubled backgrounds and build relationships with each other, squashing their differences for the greater good of the community. Parker attended this event right before the start of his first NBA season, still trying to make a change in his city despite getting comfortable in a new one (Milwaukee). And he continued his efforts with his free basketball camps around the city, where Parker, his father Sonny and the Jordan brand combine to work with kids on basketball skills, but more importantly, tell them that there is more out there besides what is in their neighborhoods.

So Parker’s return to Chicago is about much, much more than hoops. His deal with the Bulls is a two-year deal, but with a team option, meaning the Bulls can cut ties with him if this season doesn’t go well for Parker on the court. But whether or not Parker becomes a long-time Chicago Bull, the impact he makes in the city this year will grow over time.

“I also want to do it for the kids of Chicago. I want to become a teacher after I get out of the league, and help show kids what my dad and Ms. Reed showed me: There’s more out there than the gangs, than the liquor stores, than the violence.” This quote was from Parker’s excellent Players’ Tribune piece, in which he goes over what growing up in Chicago was like for him, and why he vows to make a change in the city. His main concern aside from safety, is making sure he can show kids that they don’t have to live with a limited scope of what they can become.

Jabari Parker and his team were doing great things in Chicago despite his home-base being Milwaukee. Now that Parker is playing NBA ball in Chicago, he won’t have to go far to be face-to-face with many of the communities that he is hoping to have an impact on. There will be many reasons to cheer when Parker is first announced as a Chicago Bull during their first preseason game on September 30, but the biggest one has nothing to do with basketball.

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