On Wednesday night, NBC Sports Chicago hosted the “Be Chicago: Together We Can” fundraiser, organized to benefit the community COVID-19 response fund and show gratitude to those working on the front lines to keep us all safe.
On the eve of the occasion, three Chicago basketball legends — Isiah Thomas, Kendall Gill and Jabari Parker — celebrated the cause by reminiscing on their days growing up in Chicago playing basketball and what the city’s storied history means to them.
“The first thing that comes to mind is just the brotherhood that we all have and we all share. No matter where we are, there is a certain connection of love that we all give each other in terms of looking out and being responsible to each other,” Thomas said. “And then the competitiveness in terms of playing. When we step out on the floor to compete, there’s a genuine competition of wanting to win the basketball game, not to see who can score the most points or anything like that, but it’s about your team competing against the other team.
“You can be a bad boy in college, you can be a bad boy in the pros, but if you wasn’t a bad boy in high school, Chicago is like, ‘You know, you alright.’”
Fitting for the city, then, that three generations of Chicago basketball were on display. Thomas hails from the West Side and said he revered Darius Clemons, Doc Bird and Eddie Johnson growing up. For Gill, a South Side product, the standard-bearers were Nick Anderson and Ben Wilson. Parker, also of the South Side, cited Jereme Richmond and Derrick Rose as his idols and influences. Jabari's father, Sonny Parker, of course, is as decorated a Chicago basketball star as they come.
Some barbs had to be traded, too. Thomas chided the South Side for producing mostly scorers, with the West Side churning out the “hungry” defensive-minded players, such as Patrick Beverley, Tony Allen and Thomas, himself. Gill called himself a “Harold’s Chicken” All-American in comparison to Thomas and Parker’s McDonald’s All-American status' in their high school days.
Ultimately, the conversation served to underscore the deep, cross-generational bonds that Chicago hoops has fostered around the NBA and country, at large. On behalf of that community, Thomas, Gill, Parker and all those who appeared on the “Be Chicago” fundraiser extend heartfelt thanks to healthcare workers dedicating their days to our safety.
To donate to NBC Sports Chicago’s Be Chicago: Together We Can” fundraiser benefiting the “Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund,” text Help4ChiCovid to 41444 or visit NBCSportsChicago.com/BeChicago.