Parker's decision good for him -- and NBA

April, 17, 2014
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
To the surprise of no one except those pesky anonymous NBA scouts, Jabari Parker turned pro Thursday.

In an enlightening essay, co-written by his Boswell, Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Benedict, Parker explained his thought process, along with why he still wants to graduate from Duke and possibly do a Mormon mission in the future.

[+] EnlargeJabari Parker
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeWill Jabari Parker be the latest Chicago product to go No. 1 overall in the NBA draft?
But really, it took 372 words to get to the basic point:

Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions: Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player?
Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court?
The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA.

During the season, those anonymous, but always wise, NBA scouts told reporters they heard that Parker would stay at Duke for a second year. No one in Chicago believed them.

For talent like Parker, another year in college does not make sense. One would hope Parker gets drafted by a team with a clue on how to hire coaches, and just as important, assistant coaches who know how to teach. But even if his coaches stink and he just hires a summer coach, he'll be better off than another year in the ACC.

But when it comes down to it, Parker's NBA future comes down to his own resolve. He's the one that will have to decide how good he wants to be.

I can't say I know Parker, but I've written stories about him since his sophomore year of high school at Simeon. I believe I'm one of the first reporters to quote him in a story, as Simeon's restrictive rules about player quotes were in their waning days.

Even as a high school sophomore, Parker had a noticeable maturity about him. He told me, in a 2011 phone conversation, that he told his mom to chill on the Coach K love after their first courting call. "He said, 'Mom, don't get caught up in this stuff. Coach K is not Jesus. He's just another human being,'" Lola Parker told me. Jabari confirmed that story, as parents of stars have a tendency to exaggerate.

For Parker, college was just a way station to the best basketball in the world. And while I heard he was legitimately vexed by Duke's first-round exit to Mercer -- he did win four state titles at Simeon -- anyone with a clear view of the situation knew he'd head to the league.


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This is what he was born to do, the son of an NBA veteran father.

"We done bred us one," his father, Sonny Parker, told me in 2011.

If I were an NBA general manager, I'd take Parker with the first pick. He's a born scorer with a team-first attitude. He'll adapt quickly to the pro game, and will work to attack his deficiencies on defense (few rookies come in ready to play NBA D).

If Parker does go No. 1, he'll join Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis as Chicago products turned No. 1 pick. Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor could make it four in eight years.

One of my go-to jokes this year is that Parker is probably the only player in draft history who would want to play in Milwaukee or Salt Lake City. Both cities would give him the comforts of home and family, and both teams would certainly welcome his on- and off-court appeal.

Jabari is coming, NBA. This is a very good thing.

Jon Greenberg

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.



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