If you haven't had a chance to read Jabari Parker's powerful essay in the Players' Tribune from August of 2016, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Parker professes his love for the city of Chicago and his desire to help fight against the problems of drugs and gang violence that affect so many of the city's impoverished neighborhoods.
Parker writes about his dad, former NBA player Sonny Parker, forming a foundation to help South Side kids stay in school and prepare for college. Sonny Parker didn't make the huge salaries that today's players earn but he stressed to his children how important it was for him to return to Chicago after his playing career ended in the San Francisco area.
Jabari wrote in the Players' Tribune, "He never really sat me down and told me why it had been important for him to come back to his hometown. But every day, I saw it. I saw the kids and the families that he helped, just by being there and pushing them in the right direction."
And now, Parker is following in his father's footsteps. During his four years playing in Milwaukee, he came back to Chicago every summer to lend a hand to charitable causes, including putting on a free basketball and life skills camp for kids. Now that he's signed on with the Bulls, Parker will expand his work even more, with this year's youth basketball camp set for August 2-3 at Quest Multisport Complex.
Parker says giving back to the community is something that's always been part of his life. "Ever since I was young, my dad was involved in the community, and my mom too. And they just emphasized how important it was to just pass it along and extend the offer of help to those who need."
Parker remembers how former Chicago Vocational H.S. star Juwan Howard would come back to Chicago every summer during his NBA playing career and put on free basketball camps for kids in the neighborhood. Parker says Howard is an important mentor in his life, and he wants to bring that same special experience he enjoyed attending Howard's camps.
"I was that same kid who hopefully is going to be at my camp, and my dreams came true just because I had that exposure. That's what I'm able to provide for the kids, just to be around me and see it up close. There's more than one way to be successful in life. Basketball was my journey, but if we provide more outlets for kids they'll get that proper exposure for whatever they want to do in life."
Parker's basketball journey has taken him back to Chicago, where he's trying to reach the All-Star potential that made him the second overall pick in the 2014 draft. Even after suffering two ACL tears in his left knee, Parker still possesses elite athleticism and scoring ability. And, those talents should fit well in Fred Hoiberg's offensive system.
Parker is already working out with some of his new teammates at the Advocate Center, and he's looking forward to building some chemistry leading into training camp.
"Just to be integrated with that style of play is going to be something fun," Parker said. "It's going to be something that I'm looking forward to, especially with the guys on the team. Right now, I'm just trying to be around them as much as I can so we can catch up on the chemistry we're gonna build during the season. That's what we're trying to do right now in the summer."
And, Parker will always be available to help kids who grew up in the South Side neighborhoods he described so vividly in his Players' Tribune essay. He plans to start a program to provide free tickets for kids to come out to the United Center and watch one of their own play a starring role for the hometown Bulls.
Around the Association
Speaking of giving back to the community, it will be almost impossible to top what LeBron James just did in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James held a news conference at the opening of his I Promise School for disadvantaged children, providing students with every possible need free of charge.
In as interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, James called the opening of the school the most rewarding thing he's ever accomplished.
“I can sit here and be at a loss for words, which I am now," he said. "This is my first time here, walking these hallways and seeing, when I was driving here, just the streets that I walked, some of the stores are still up when I was growing up.
"It's a moment I'll never forget and hopefully, the kids, starting with the 240 kids that we have going in here right now starting today, will never forget it, either."
No matter what you think about James jumping from team to team in hopes of enhancing his basketball legacy, his desire to help children in Akron can never be questioned.
James also addressed his decision to sign with the Lakers, saying he loved the plan laid out by Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka. But he admitted in the interview with Nichols that he considered other teams as well.
"I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]," he said. "I just felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me - just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a super-team, but if people look at it, I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined that team and you can look at the Lakers' record - so I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some place they haven't been in quite a while."
James hates when reporters say or write he started the super-team concept when he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, but the reality is that move altered the NBA landscape in a way no one could have anticipated. Players now openly discuss options of playing with their friends on other teams, with franchises planning for years in advance to be in position to create the next super-team.
Houston GM Daryl Morey has been trying for years to squeeze as many stars as he can find into the team's salary cap, but Morey may have out-smarted himself with his latest move to bring in aging scorer Carmelo Anthony. Rockets' coach Mike D'Antoni did an excellent job of building an offense around two ball-dominant guards in Harden and Paul, surrounding them with 3-point shooters like Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Ryan Anderson, along with a rim-running, alley-oop finisher in Clint Capela.
That formula led to a league-best 65 wins last season, and a near miss against Golden State in the conference finals. But adding another ball-stopper like Anthony, who refuses to admit he would be better coming off the bench at this point in his career, could dramatically slow down the Rockets' high octane offense.
Anthony chafed at playing power forward in Oklahoma City last season, and didn't appreciate losing shot attempts to the All-Star duo of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Now, he's another year older, facing the same issues in Houston. Anthony and D'Antoni feuded openly during their time together with the Knicks. It will be fascinating to see what both men learned from that experience. The future of the Rockets as a championship contender could be riding on it.
Finally, congratulations to Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley on her second consecutive victory in the WNBA 3-point shootout during All-Star weekend in Minneapolis. The former DePaul and Joliet Catholic H.S. star racked up 29 points in a tiebreaker round to beat Kayla McBride. Quigley made 5 out of 5 shots on her money-ball rack to clinch the victory.
As you probably know, WNBA players aren't making huge salaries, but for the second year in a row, Quigley donated her $10,000 winnings to a scholarship fund at Joliet Catholic, set up in the memory of her father, Patrick, who died at a young age.
Just like Parker and James, Quigley deserves praise for wanting to help the children who look up to her as a role model.