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Jabari Parker has had one of the most unique starts to a career in NBA history. Coming out of high school, he was a top recruit, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and played college basketball at Duke University.
Upon being selected with the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, he’s torn his ACL twice in the NBA, averaged 20 points in a season and is now with his fourth NBA team in five years.
That’s a lot of ups and downs for a 24-year-old.
“I never lost sight to who I am,” Parker told Amico Hoops during a phone interview. “I always will remain confident in my abilities and just at the right moment at the right time, I’ll get a chance to show my abilities again.”
When he has played, he’s been very good, owning career averages of 15.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, a player in his shoes can be held to a higher standard by many, but in his unique case, it’s incredible what he has accomplished.
Right now the 6-foot-8 forward considers himself healthy. In fact, he now knows how to take care of his body better and feels since he has a good plan in place.
“I know my routine. Pretty much mature to how to take care of my body, because that was a problem for me in the beginning,” he said. “Just trying to get the right amount of recovery and I wasn’t doing that, which resulted in injures. But right now, I pretty much have a game plan.”
In recovering from several serious injuries like Parker has suffered, a player needs to be strong mentally. Having one injury is tough, but having two would devastate some.
However, Parker is a man who relies on his faith. His mom got him into his faith of Christianity when he was young and he tries to go to church every Sunday. He also meditates to limit distractions and doesn’t think he would have been able to recover so well without his faith and God.
“That is something that’s been the miracle for me,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have recovered so well through my injury. Through my second post-op surgery, and I don’t miss a beat but that’s because of God. I believe that my faith has put me in this position and that kind of energy is able to uplift me.”
Going into next season, Parker is healthy and joining one of the exciting, young teams in all the NBA. In fact, even though he is going into his sixth season, he in the same age group as most of the players on the team. While there is a good chance he starts the season on the bench, he has a chance to play a very big role in leading the Hawks back to the playoffs.
“My role is what I make it to be,” Parker said. “That’s just playing the right way, being a good teammate and hopefully everything else takes care of itself.”
On the offensive side of the ball, he has already proven he has the chance to be elite if he isn’t already there. However, a lot of people tend to question his defense based off of an infamous quote he told a radio station (670 The Score) in Chicago they don’t pay players to play defense.
In Parker’s eyes he was misinterpreted, but knows he shouldn’t have said what he said.
“My response was a barbershop conversation,” he said. “That type of interview didn’t deserve my type of realism. I should have just stayed political.”
When Parker was asked if he cares about defense, he responded with passion.
“Of course I do,” he said. “I want to be out there playing. If I can’t defend my opponent and if he scores as much I’m scoring then he won the matchup. I take pride in my matchup. I try to fulfill my role and my responsibility as much as I can. The greatest teams have shown that they gotta lock down, and that’s the type of person that I want to become, is an all-around player.”
Being such a highly touted recruit, top draft pick and coming from Duke carries that extra pressure and spotlight. A player like Zion Williamson is someone who will be entering the spotlight in the NBA for the first time this season, and when asked for his advice to Williamson, Parker was thoughtful in his response.
“That’s a person that’s one of every trillion people that’s going to be in existence,” Parker said. “He’s up there with Goliath. There’s not much advice I can give, because I’ve never faced the type of celebrity and fame that he’s been able to do. The only thing I can say is for him to be his best self.
“Whatever decision he wants to make, whatever he wants to do to be happy, that’s great. No one can be Zion, but Zion.”
Next week, Parker has a basketball camp in Chicago from July 31-Aug. 2 that is free. He’s hosted the camp since he’s been in the NBA and tries to be at the camp from when it starts until it ends.
The gesture is very heartwarming considering how many kids cannot afford to attend camp. In a big city like Chicago, to be able to attend an NBA player’s camp could mean the world to some kids.
“I try to be there as soon as it starts until it ends,” he said. “Just try to be a camper again and do everything. Go into the drills, talk to the kids, joke around and just really take it back to when I was young.”
When Parker was young, he went to camps like this one and wants to pay it forward and create a cycle.
“As soon as I got to be successful, I wanted to pay it forward and that’s kind of my duty,” he said.
Parker lives in Chicago during the offseason, but was somewhat familiar with Atlanta before singing with the Hawks. He has a sister and a nephew there.
As for the rest of his playing days, Parker has the right outlook on what should be a long, successful career.
“The awards, the trophies really don’t mean much to me,” he said. “I just want to be a good person, to be a good man for my family, and to my community and just to keep on playing this game that I love.
“Hopefully, everything takes care itself, but I don’t want to be remembered for the fame.”