Today, Duke University freshman Jabari Parker announced his decision to enter the 2014 NBA draft. His 1,300-word essay on SI.com marks the first time a student-athlete has declared his intention to leave college for the pro ranks by writing a first-person account with Sports Illustrated.
Typically, announcements of this nature are done through press conference or press releases. But Jabari is not typical. Writing an essay made sense on a number of levels. First, Jabari has a father-son relationship with Coach K. Saying goodbye is difficult. Second, Jabari is a thoughtful, smart student. His athleticism gets all the attention. But Jabari’s academic experience at Duke has been rich, too.
I started writing about Jabari in Sports Illustrated when he was a junior in high school at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago. I chronicled his freshman season at Duke. Along the way we’ve established a close friendship.
But writing with someone is a lot different than writing about someone. In this case, Jabari participated in every step of the process. We exchanged drafts. We edited together. He even engaged in the video production process. In this respect he demonstrated that he truly has been a student-athlete at Duke.
He's also announced that he plans to graduate from Duke by furthering his education while he's in the NBA.
There’s another reason that putting his thoughts down on paper made sense. It leaves no room for misunderstanding. That’s particularly important with respect to Jabari’s decision to forego an LDS Church mission for now. He spent as much time making that decision as he did with the decision to enter the NBA.
Jabari’s father Sonny has run a youth foundation in Chicago for years. He’s helped countless kids through mentoring and coaching. The Parker family’s reputation in the city is built on Sonny’s rich legacy of service to kids. One of Jabari’s goals is to follow his father’s footsteps.