Jabari Parker knows how lucky he is. Blessed with world-class basketball talent, he rode that skill to the NBA, where he now works and holds the privilege of returning to the south side of his hometown of Chicago on his own time, on his own terms. He used to live there, as many do now and have for a very long time, despite wanting to get out.
In a new essay for The Players’ Tribune, Parker describes in detail how badly he wanted to leave the city when any evening or afternoon could quickly turn scary and force him to protectively throw his body against the concrete when he suddenly heard drive-by gunfire. “I did not want to stay in Chicago, I did not want to see one Illinois license plate,” Parker writes. “I was so used to my neighborhood, my environment. I had gotten sick of it all.
“I got sick of using old books. I got sick of all of the noise. I got sick of helicopters flying above my house at 2 a.m. I got sick of sirens. I got sick of junkies in the alleyway under my bedroom window. I got sick of the police putting giant spotlights on top of telephone poles to try and keep drug dealers away.
“I got sick of gunshots on the Fourth of July — to this day, I can’t even enjoy the Fourth of July. My parents always told me to go inside because on the Fourth, there are always a lot of murders. Gunshots sound like fireworks, so it’s easier to get away with firing a gun. Even today, I sometimes still flinch at fireworks.”
After attending Duke and playing two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, though, Parker has penned his thoughts on his birth city with a greatly expanded perspective on it. Despite his previous wishes to be done with Chicago forever, he now cherishes the opportunity to improve it with his fame, wealth, and knowledge.
“I wanted to be like Juwan Howard,” Parker writes. “whose basketball camp I went to as kid for six years. Those camps meant everything to me and my friends. We’d all seen Juwan on TV and then … there he was. In ourgym. We could see him. We could give him a high five. His camp was more than just a place where we could learn skills. It showed us that he loved us, that he wanted more for us.”
Chicago could certainly use every bit of help Parker may bring it, so hats off to him for looking to give water back to his roots.
(via The Players’ Tribune)