Jabari Parker: Mormon Athlete

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Jabari Parker, Mormon Athlete

Jabari Parker is a basketball phenomenon, who, while in high school in 2012, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and on major television new shows. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the Mormon Church.

After playing for Duke University for one season, Parker was selected with the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He later played for the Chicago Bulls, the Washington Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks, the Sacramento Kings, and the Boston Celtics. He now plays for FC Barcelona of the Spanish Liga ACB and the EuroLeague.

Jabari Parker was born on March 15, 1995, in Chicago, Illinois. His family lived on the South Side of Chicago even before he was born (Wikipedia). His father has been a youth foundation leader there since 1990. Jabari discovered his basketball talent in one of his father's leagues, but not one his father coached. He honed his basketball skills with his brother Christian on the basketball court at his local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse in the Hyde Park community area in order to avoid the hazards of urban playgrounds. He became a basketball prodigy at an early age, and by the time he was in fifth grade, was playing against junior high school players. He was prodded on to achieve by his cousin, Jay Parker. Before he was twelve years old, Jabari was six feet tall and had garnered five Division I scholarship offers.

"Parker attended Black Magnet Elementary and made headlines when he made Simeon Career Academy high school choice, just like Rose, Nick Anderson, Ben Wilson, Bobby Simmons and Deon Thomas before him.[18][19] During the summer after finishing middle school, he received a National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp invitation, which he accepted. By this time, he stood at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m)." [1]

For the first time ever at Simon Academy, a freshman player was invited to play on the varsity basketball team. Jabari volunteered as a water boy for the Junior Varsity games, even as he excelled on the floor with the Varsity team, supported by other excellent players. By the end of his freshman season, he had received numerous scholarship offers, including those from Illinois, Kansas, DePaul, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Florida, Washington, Brigham Young University, and Oregon State as well as significant interest from Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina. [2] He earned the ESPN HS 2010 Freshman of the Year Award. He was a MaxPreps.com second team 2009-10 Boys Basketball Freshman All-American Team selection.

By his sophomore year in high school, Jabari had reached the height of 6'8" and a weight of 225 lbs. Later he had reached 6'9" tall and trimmed to 220 lbs. His team was nationally ranked in the top 5, but still battled the greatness of opposing team, Whitney Young. In addition to other awards and national recognitions, at the end of his sophomore year, Jabari was awarded the ESPN HS 2011 Sophomore of the year. He was a MaxPreps.com first team 2010-11 Boys Basketball Sophomore All-American Team selection.

By the end of his sophomore year, some basketball scouts were starting to pencil him in as the 2014 NBA Draft first overall selection. Chicago Sun-Times writer Michael O'Brien wrote that junior Parker is the best high school basketball player in the country at any position in any class. [3] He was invited to the August 5–7, 2011, 5th annual Nike Global Challenge, where he earned tournament MVP honors. By his junior season, 42 schools sent scouts and coaches to see his September 13, 2011 workout.

Following his junior year high school season, Jabari was featured in a May cover story in Sports Illustrated magazine. The story presented his humility and his consideration of the possibility of serving a Latter-day Saint Mission. Parker maintained a 3.7 grade point average in high school, and placed his faith in a position of more importance than his career. To the Sports Illustrated interviewer, he said, "Basketball is what I do. It's not who I am."

Sports Illustrated devoted six pages to Parker's story, which describes him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, but there's something more important to him than instant NBA stardom: his faith." [4]

Jabari was interviewed by Latter-day Saint journalist and frequent SI contributor Jeff Benedict. Said B.J. Schecter, executive editor at Sports Illustrated:

"We are attracted to this particular story because of how unique of a kid Jabari is. A lot of people preach that they're into their faith and that it's a huge part of their lives. Jabari actually practices that. We found in looking into this story that his faith and his Mormon religion is more important to him than basketball in a lot of ways. How he carries himself in the fact that he can excel in two distinct areas where few people can balance is really extraordinary. The fact that he is so good, yet so humble, only makes you want to know more about the kid. With Jabari, his actions are what do the talking, not him. In today's modern athlete, that makes him really unique." [5]

Jeff Benedict and Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer, spent days with Jabari's family, and followed him through all his routines. Fitzmaurice went to church with him, but Benedict didn't need to, since he is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. "The last time a high school athlete was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it was another member of the LDS Church, prep baseball superstar Bryce Harper, in 2009. Harper, who ended up being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, made his Major League Baseball debut late last month. Before Harper, the most recent high school athlete to land on the cover was Sebastian Telfair in 2004." [6]

In December 2012, Jabari verbally committed to play for Duke University. According to Wikipedia, "Parker received much recognition for his freshman year performance. He was unanimously selected to both the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) All-ACC first team and the Coaches All-ACC Freshman Team. He was also selected to the Coaches All-ACC Basketball first team with the most points. Parker was voted the ACC Freshman of the Year receiving 72 of 77 votes and placed second for the ACC Player of the Year award, trailing Warren 48–25. Parker was a 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball All-American first-team selection by The Associated Press, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), and USA Today. Parker was USBWA National Freshman of the Year and named to the 2013 Freshman All-American. He was selected to the first team All-ACC Tournament team. Parker also earned John R. Wooden Award All-American Team recognition."

On June 26, 2014, Parker was selected no. 2 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and signed on July 9. On July 14, 2018, Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. On February 6, 2019, Parker was traded, along with Bobby Portis and a 2023 second-round pick, to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Otto Porter. Parker signed with the Atlanta Hawks in July 2019 and was out in January 2020 with a shoulder injury. In February 2020, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings who waived him on March 25, 2021. Parker joined the Boston Celtics late in the 2020–2021 season on a two-year deal.


At the April 2019 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Gary E. Stevenson included Jabari in his talk:

We know Church members and priesthood holders who have experienced success at the highest levels of professional athletics. There are many good examples, but I can list only a few here for the sake of time. You might recognize some of these athletes: in baseball, Jeremy Guthrie and Bryce Harper; in basketball, Jabari Parker and Jimmer Fredette; in soccer, Ricardo Rojas; in rugby league, William Hopoate; and in football, Taysom Hill and Daniel Sorensen. Each has made significant contributions to his sport.
While they are extremely successful in their sports, these athletes would be the first to admit they are not perfect athletes or perfect human beings. They work hard to be the best in their sport—and to live the gospel. They get up if they stumble, and they strive to endure to the end.

He later quoted Jabari as saying: “I couldn’t imagine the person that I would’ve turned out to be if I hadn’t made the decision to be baptized. . . . I’m so grateful that I have God in my life to guide me every day.”

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