The first time I saw Jabari Parker in person was back in January 2012 at the Hoophall Classic, and a few things jumped out at me. One was his poise with the media, despite then-No. 1 Simeon having lost its first game of the season to fellow powerhouse Findlay Prep. Another was the polish and maturity of his game: Even in defeat, Parker had a smooth 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Perhaps most of all, I couldn’t stop looking down at his feet: Parker was wearing a crisp pair of Air Jordan XI Concords, which were originally released the year he was born. I thought he had great taste in footwear — I actually got married in Concords — and it struck me at the time as the perfect choice for a Chicago native on a trajectory to become basketball royalty. Conspicuously, he would go on to wear Jordans on not one, not two, but three covers of Sports Illustrated.
It wasn’t a surprise, then, that Parker announced on Thursday he had signed with the Jordan Brand. He did so in style, tweeting out a picture of a gold Jumpman tie pin he’ll wear at tonight’s NBA Draft, where he’s nearly certain to be a Top-2 pick.
— Jabari Parker (@JabariParker) June 26, 2014
His talent and burgeoning personal brand make him a no-brainer addition for Jordan — especially when you consider the player he was most compared to at Duke was fellow Jumpman athlete Carmelo Anthony.
“We could not be more excited to have Jabari Parker officially join our Jordan Family,” Jordan Brand president Larry Miller said in a statement. “Jabari’s character and commitment to excellence makes him a perfect fit with Jordan Brand and we are looking forward to building a legacy with him.”
The timing here is the impressive part: Parker found a way to take the best day of his life to date, the day he realizes his NBA dream, and make it even better by joining the pre-eminent brand in basketball. And Jordan found a perfect way to make the first big splash of Draft day, exactly 30 years after Michael Jordan himself was drafted.
Given Parker has yet to play a professional game, it’s a leap of faith in certain ways for Jordan, but not a huge one. Jabari is considered the “safe” top pick, bringing to his new team a fully-formed offensive game that is ready-made for success in the NBA. He’s strong enough to score inside, skilled with the ball and extends his range well past the three-point line.
Factor in Jabari’s pedigree and level of class — he hopes someday to return to Chicago to be a community activist — and one can see him nearly immediately taking a place near the top of Jordan’s roster of basketball ambassadors, along with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and 2013 draftee Victor Oladipo.
(Is it weird, by the way, to have a former Dukie representing Jordan? Gerald Henderson would tell you otherwise.)
Besides, like Jabari’s game, there’s far more than just one facet to his personality and identity. There’s his Mormon faith, his Chicago roots, his relationship with Coach K, and now, there’s his association with the greatest player of all time, and the best brand in basketball.
As if we needed any more evidence Jabari Parker is destined for big things.
What do you think?
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