Jayson Tatum Singles Out Ex-Bucks Star: ‘I Wanted to Be Like Him’

Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Getty Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Former Milwaukee Bucks lottery pick Jabari Parker may not have lived up to his potential, but he still influenced modern NBA stars. Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum singled out Parker during his postgame press conference on January 15.

“He was the reason I went to Duke. I wanted to be like him. So I’ve got a lot of love for him and happy he’s playing well,” Tatum told reporters, per Taylor Snow’s X account.

Tatum and Parker played together on the Celtics from 2021 to 2022. Tatum revealed that he’s still keeping tabs on Parker’s professional basketball career overseas.

“I did see he had a buzzer beater the other day,” Tatum said. “I haven’t talked to Jabari in a minute, but somebody that I got a lot of respect for. Happy that he’s playing at a high level. Obviously, I got to play with him (in) two different stints with the Celtics.”

Parker was projected to have a superstar-like career when the Bucks drafted him in 2014. Tearing his ACL early on in 2014 derailed his rookie season. Parker looked like he was reaching his potential in his third season before tearing the same ACL again. Parker then suffered various injuries after that, prematurely ending his NBA career in 2022.

Jabari Parker Explains Why He Loves EuroLeague

Jabari Parker currently plays for FC Barcelona. Despite not playing in the NBA anymore, Parker talked about how much he enjoyed playing in the EuroLeague.

“Basketball is bigger than the NBA. Basketball is global,” Parker told Geoff Gillingham of the league’s website in a November 30, 2023 story. “Ever since I was young when I was watching the Olympics and seeing other teams like Spain and Argentina, I knew that no matter what part or stage of my career, I wanted to play at the best level, no matter where I was.”

Parker took a cryptic shot at the NBA while explaining why he loves playing overseas.

“I love the EuroLeague,” Parker said. “It’s very competitive, it’s guys who play basketball the right way, and the environment [atmosphere], most importantly, stands out.

“I just want to do what I do best, but most importantly, it’s all about winning. When we win, it takes care of all our problems, and as long as I am a byproduct of our team’s success, then I’m happy.”

Parker then explained the biggest difference between the NBA and the EuroLeague

“I say the NBA and the EuroLeague is like night and day,” Parker said. “It kind of reminds me of college playing here in Europe: every game is counted for.

“It can either build you or break you, and it matters when you play in certain tournaments and for bragging rights. We not only have a rival in [Real] Madrid, but we have rivals everywhere we go, and that’s how serious it is.”

Giannis Floated Possible Jabari Parker Reunion in 2019

In a November 28, 2019, story, Giannis Antetokounmpo told ESPN’s Eric Woodyard that he would be okay with Parker returning to the Bucks. He also added that he wouldn’t have minded other former Bucks coming back too.

“At the end of the day, I want guys to love being here, love playing for this team, love playing with me,” Antetokounmpo said. “I love that if he ever finds an opportunity to come back, he’s willing to come back. Who knows? We might be teammates again.

“And it’s not just Jabari. I’m talking about all of the guys — Tony [Snell], Thon [Maker], Christian Wood, [Matthew Dellavedova], John Henson, Brandon Jennings — all those guys that I played with. I know that if the opportunity presented itself, they would love to be here. A lot of people that played with me these seven years love playing for Milwaukee, and they love being in Milwaukee.”

Neither Parker nor any of the other former Bucks came back, but Giannis evidently formed a connection with his ex-teammate.