It’s been about four days since Jabari Parker crumpled to the floor with a torn anterior collateral ligament. It’s been about three since we found out that it was more than a sprain.
Since that game, which ended with a Khris Middleton dagger, the Bucks have been beaten in a close contest at Portland and edged the Kings in the return of DeMarcus Cousins. They still appear able to hang with every team they face and the playoffs still seem like a very real possibility.
The rest of the sports world has continued to move forward, if not on, as well, with Rajon Rondo headed to Dallas, Jay Cutler going to the bench, the Grizzlies purging the enemies of the family true Grindfather style, the Warriors splashing down from everywhere, the worst nationally televised football matchup in history, the Padres assembling a star-studded outfield, and Frank Caliendo absolutely merking “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Mike and Mike. We even came within a couple phone calls of a Manny/Mayweather fight.
But at the expense of dampening your spirits, I think we need to give the rookie season-ending injury of Jabari Parker its due.
What I’ve noticed is that it just feels off. Pardon the paltry eloquence, but if the shoe fits, you must write it. On paper, from a national sports syndicate point of view (which is not mine, of course) it is indeed another injury; guys get hurt all the time. And, after the initial discussion of “Is this a trend?” “What does this mean?” “Do we need to make changes?” “Keep them in school longer!”, Parker’s injury settled into another starling suffering a setback that he can probably make a full Peterson-esque recovery from.
But that misses the fact that FSN is still running this surprisingly cool promo:
If there’s one player that’s featured in that, it’s Parker. And this is no anomaly. I was at the Bucks game on the 13th, and that franchise is about two players: Parker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greek Freak). Those are the two jerseys most prominently displayed in the merchandise stands, and just looking about you can tell they are clearly the faces of the franchise’s new era. The Milwaukee fans adore Giannis, like a prized possession that just makes them happier by the fact he exists. And does he ever exist. Parker gets a different kind of applause. While they treat the Greek Freak with jubilant optimism, Parker is hailed more as the Milwaukee Messiah who is quickly figuring out the NBA game. Maybe Giannis will be a Kawhi Leonard/Kevin Durant hybrid, maybe he will just be Nic Batum. Jabari Parker WILL be an All-Star.
The future that the promo urges viewers to “own” is 90% Giannis/Jabari. Despite the other nice young players and the underrated veterans, the reason the future is looking up in Milwaukee is that combo of prodigies. And now it’s in an unsettling state of uncertainty. There are now all sorts of questions about what the future will look like as Parker begins the road to recovery.
And I can’t help but think that this hasn’t mattered as much as it should. As you may know, I love sports narratives, and Jabari’s has been well documented and years in the making. Think about it: The Chicago kid starts making national news as a junior in high school rated as the number one recruit in the nation. At least one of his games at Simeon Career Academy is broadcast on ESPN. He goes to Duke, the highest profile basketball school in the country, and shows flashes of brilliance, the “Oh this kid’s the real deal” type of brilliance, as the second-rated recruit behind only Andrew Wiggins, and the pair are part of a draft class that had teams getting more tank-happy than the Shedd Aquarium. The Bucks end up in the lottery by accident and get the second overall pick, which was actually not a bad place to be as sorting out Parker/Wiggins/Embiid at number one was a debacle for Cleveland. And then Parker, who the Bucks were hoping to get, TANKS his workout with Cleveland because he wants to play for Milwaukee. A prodigy WANTS to play for MILWAUKEE? I think the Jae Crowder caps are appropriate here (by the way am I dropping too many references in this article? Let me know it’s been a while).
The Bucks take Parker, and everyone is excited about a future with great young players, a burgeoning head coach, new ownership, and eventually a new arena. Like there’s so much going on I don’t even need to mention Mallory Edens. Well I guess I just did, so never mind.
Parker was improving, Giannis was terrifying, the team was winning, and it all looked like the the plan was coming together.
And then Jabari Parker just crumpled to the floor without anyone touching him.
I remember this strange emptiness when I found out. I was watching the second half of Marquette vs ASU as Luke Fischer made his debut and suddenly made the Golden Eagles look like a tournament team. In the back of my mind I was awaiting the results of the MRI. I saw a “Breaking News” alert on the crawl line and I knew what it was going to say. I can’t say I was surprised, as this sort of thing just seems to happen to the Bucks, but it just didn’t seem right. It’s that helpless feeling when you get when a character dies in a book or television show. No matter what you do they’re gone. I texted my homies and their responses were “F–k” and “I f–king knew it. I knew this shit would happen.”
But it didn’t blow up Facebook and Twitter, and ESPN was done talking about it 24 hours later.
And as I pondered some of these things while cleaning the Culver’s dining room, I looked around at the customers that I loathe so much (okay that’s a strong word) and thought about how little Jabari Parker means to the average Wisconsinite. Most of them have probably never heard of him, and if they have, a nineteen year old black kid who bounces a ball for a living probably holds little of their attention. The fact that his dreams are on a year-long deferment are of no consequence to them.
And that’s kind of infuriating, as Milwaukee has not one, but two basketball saviors, one of them being an Aegean lottery ticket and the other being a can’t miss next big thing. The Bucks got both of them. That just doesn’t happen. But it did happen. But then again, if a baller falls on the hardwood and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Jabari Parker is a big freaking deal, and has been for a while. Now he’s, for the purposes of the observer, gone.
Look, you gotta live your life one day at a time and keep working your way forward. There’s plenty of good basketball for me to watch and plenty to write about. The Bucks have games to play, players to improve, and franchise decisions to make. Jabari Parker has rehab sessions to go to. Culver’s customers have more poor food choices to make. It’s always one more thing until you die, and that’s the way it should be.
But, in this case, it just feels a little off.
I’ll just leave this here.
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Soli Deo Gloria