Note: This post can also be seen in the July 1 edition of the Clintonville Chronicle and the July 2 edition of the Manawa Messenger.
The Milwaukee Bucks took the Duke forward with the second overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, and they could not have made a more perfect selection.
I was extraordinarily high on Australian point guard Dante Exum, who went fifth to the Utah Jazz. I still think Exum will be a perennial All-Star someday, but the Bucks franchise needed Jabari Parker the way human beings need oxygen.
What makes the Parker selection even more perfect is that Parker wanted to come to Milwaukee as badly as Milwaukee wanted him here. The Bucks need a franchise player both on and off the court, and Parker is absolutely that.
Parker wanted to go to a place where he was desired, and where he would be the focal point of the franchise moving forward. In almost every one of his interviews since Thursday night, when asked why he wanted to come to Milwaukee, he responded with some form of “they were all-in with me.” Jabari was channeling his inner Cheap Trick – he wanted to be wanted. As a Chicago native, he also wanted to play close to home.
The Bucks needed Jabari, and Jabari needed the Bucks. Fits like this don’t come around very often. Not since LeBron got picked first by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers have things seemingly come together like this for a city and a player.
On the court, Parker should become a star. His offensive game, and the versatility it possesses, will translate to plenty of scoring. And, naturally, that fits perfectly with the Bucks roster.
Milwaukee is developing some raw athletes like Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson and (hopefully) Larry Sanders. They need a go-to scorer who can get his own shot whenever it’s needed, and that’s exactly who Parker is on the court.
It’s who Parker is off the court, however, that will make the biggest impact.
“I feel like I’m going to be able to grow with that organization,” Parker told reporters on draft night, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m trying to be a throwback player and only stick with one team.”
If more perfect words have been spoken by a Milwaukee Buck, I have never heard them. The franchise has been desperate for the kind of player who can make the right impact on the court. Even more so, the franchise - and its fans - has been desperately yearning for a player who will make the Bucks relevant again, and stay here to see the process through.
It’s just words right now; we’ll see what happens when Los Angeles or New York come calling when Parker’s rookie contract is up. But for those who don’t know much about Jabari, believe me when I say that he’s the kind of guy who will be true to his word. Think of what Aaron Rodgers means to the Packers organization. That’s what Parker can be for the Bucks.
Parker went on to tell reporters about how the Bucks were successful in “the old days with Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the Big O (Oscar Robertson), even in the ‘90s when they made the playoffs with Sam Cassell.”
What? He knows this stuff?
“I just want to be remembered as one of them, too, since I’m going to the Bucks.”
Sometimes, there just aren’t words …
On the court, Parker reminds me of former Celtic and current Brooklyn Net Paul Pierce. A guy who doesn’t look or play like an elite athlete, but just finds a way to score anyway. Pierce is also known for his competitiveness and his ability to make big shots, two things that Parker has also shown in his young career.
Off the court, Parker reminds me of Tim Duncan.
Duncan was taken first overall in the 1997 draft and has gone on to win five NBA championships including this past season. Winning just seems to follow him, but it’s not a coincidence. Winning is Duncan’s ultimate goal. He sacrifices minutes, points, fame, money and anything else he needs to in order to win.
You also don’t hear a lot from Duncan off the court. Almost nothing, actually. And I think Parker will be the same way. He’s not a “me first” kind of guy. He’ll do commercials and he has a shoe deal with Nike, but he’s not going to be too concerned with “building his brand” like a lot of players are now. He’s quiet and fairly reserved, and he’s the ideal teammate.
To anyone who knows the NBA, despite his public silence, Duncan is also the Spurs’ unquestioned leader. And although Parker is a rookie, he has the qualities that can vault him into that role immediately with the Bucks.
Essentially, Parker has “it”. No one really knows what that is, but it’s clear when a player has it. And it’s very clear that Parker has a wealth of it.
The most exciting thing about the Bucks drafting Parker may be that it is hope to not have to hope anymore. It’s the belief that we may finally have “our guy”. A guy that can lead the Bucks back to the playoffs on the court (and not just as an eight seed), but also a guy who will spend his career here, working, doing everything he can to make sure that happens.
Jabari Parker is more than hope, though. He is belief. Belief that things are going to finally be better in Milwaukee.