After a tumultuous and injury-ridden four-year stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, 6’8” Jabari Parker is back home in Chicago, suiting up for the Bulls. Parker’s rookie season was cut short by an ACL tear in December of 2014, and the same ACL would tear again in February of 2017, making his first years as a professional player challenging–and not in the way he’d been hoping for.
Jabari’s next chapter at home may see him become the powerhouse he’s long been projected to be. As that chapter begins, here’s what you need to know:
1. He Went to the Same Chicago High School as Derrick Rose
Simeon High School has been the original stomping ground of a few NBA names now–most notably Derrick Rose, who graduated in 2007. Rose’s high school career earned him two state championships, and Parker’s time at Simeon is marked by a dynasty from 2009-2013 and a 2011-2012 Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Both players, Chicagoans born and raised, found their way back to their hometown team after successful campaigns at the very same high school. Continuing their shared legacy, Parker’s early injuries are tragically reminiscent of Rose’s–though he’s made his views on Rose’s legacy and struggle very clear.
Chicago, Derrick Rose, and unfortunate knee injuries are a soft spot for Jabari. And it’s no wonder; the Chicagoan is proud of where he came from and he isn’t afraid to show it.
2. He’s an Active Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The LDS church, known widely as the “Mormon” church, has been a part of Parker’s life since he was a kid. He grew up going to church on Sundays, with additional seminary classes in the early mornings before high school and weekday activities with other Mormon youth in his area.
Growing up Mormon means abstaining from alcohol, premarital sex, and coffee. Abstentions which throughout his life have drawn both curiosity from his teammates and admiration from a Mormon community eager for a mainstream hero.
But Parker’s faith has been a comfort for him as he has battled both injuries and everyday challenges. He told Deseret News “It’s the biggest thing that helps me every day and regardless of if I was hurt or not, I’ve got to make sure that I always worship and give God thanks because anything can happen at any moment in time, so you’ve just got to stay true.”
3. His Dad is a Former NBA Player, and named Jabari After Muhammad Ali
Sonny Parker was drafted 17th overall in 1976, playing with the Golden State Warriors until 1982. Having been drafted from Texas A&M, the elder Parker was the 29-year record holder of the school’s highest NBA draft pick, only being supplanted by Antoine Wright in 2005.
Though his career was relatively short, Sonny was not an inconsequential player, averaging 9.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 2.1 APG in the six years that he played.
Jabari has said that his middle name, Ali, was inspired by his father’s hero: Muhammad Ali. A passion for athletics–basketball or not–runs in this family.
4. He Has a Passion for Classic Cars
Besides basketball, his faith, and his family, Parker’s happy place is behind the wheel of a classic automobile. Since joining the NBA he has amassed a small collection of vintage vehicles, turning to them whenever he needs to clear his head with an aimless drive.
In The Players’ Tribune, he writes:
“New cars don’t have the same feel. They don’t have a story. Old cars have things to say. With an old car, you have to be extra observant about everything. You have to listen and pay attention — to how the engine sounds, where the oil levels are at, if it’s running hot, all of that. You’ve gotta be tuned in, and I like that. New cars, to me they just feel like plain sheets of metal.”
He has said that, growing up in his neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, the way you cared for your car was a metaphor for the way you cared for the other aspects of your life. Jabari seems to have taken that to heart.
5. He Rented Out an Entire Movie Theater to Take Milwaukee Kids to “Black Panther”
In the midst of his return from his second ACL tear, he spent a Saturday night in February with 120 Milwaukee kids. He had rented an entire theater to give the kids a free showing of “Black Panther”, a film that other big names including Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar have felt was important for children–especially children of color–to have the chance to see.
On top of paying for the screening, Parker paid for snacks and transportation, allowing the kids to be present for a cultural moment they may not have had the chance to see otherwise. In an interview with OnMilwaukee, Parker explained that his motive was “Just showing kids that we need to celebrate when we do something well – everybody, not even just African Americans, but Africans and our whole Pan-African people. Just to celebrate each other instead of putting each other down and to know that you can do anything and become anybody that you want, because we’ve got a superhero now.”