Father knows best?
So Sonny Parker will tell you not to be deceived by his son, Jabari's, phlegmatic appearance. He may not say he's the greatest. But the kid named for Muhammad Ali, Jabari Ali Parker, likely believes it.
"He keeps a lot of things to himself," Sonny Parker said after his son was introduced as the newest Bulls player at a Wednesday United Center media conference. "I didn't even know until Friday. I pretty much found out when you (media) guys found out. He very seldom celebrates because he feels like he's been there before. He keeps a lot of things inside. Sometimes I do things on purpose just to get (some kind of) reaction. I don't know how he does it, but (when) it comes out you've got to pay attention to it."
Sonny Parker understands.
He's not your ordinary family member of a professional athlete; he isn't living vicariously through his children.
Sonny was all-everything at Farragut High School and resides in numerous halls of fame. He became an all-American and all-decade player at Texas A&M and first round NBA draft choice for the Golden State Warriors. He played six years in the NBA, twice averaging at least 14 points and went on to do distinguished community work in Chicago at the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club, where Jabari in the shadows of the United Center learned to play basketball, and with his own youth foundation.
Sonny doesn't need the athletic brilliance or success of a child to define him, his on and off the court accomplishments among the most revered in Chicago. So he speaks frankly and plainly.
"I've been through a lot of what he's been through," Sonny says. "I've told him how you've got to be professional, to make sure your body language is right, be the biggest cheerleader out there even when you are not playing and whatever minutes they give you, go out there and be productive because it's about the team. He knows that.
"He's got DNA, that's all I can tell you, he's got the DNA," Sonny said with an assured smile. "You guys are going to see it. He's got a different kind of swagger, a different kind of toughness. But it's not bragging if you can back it up. Because you know his middle name is Ali. I named him after Muhammad Ali. He's a queen on the chessboard; he can play every position. He led the ACC in rebounding. He played center, didn't he? He can play all positions. He can handle the ball, he can play anywhere on the court. The three-point shot came really good this year. He's explosive. They said he wasn't athletic, what? He had 80, 90 dunks one year. He's athletic and skilled. I know they have him pigeonholed like he's a four, but he's a wing player. He guards point guards. You look at some of the games he played, he sometimes switches off on the point guards. I just want him to be a basketball player."
The Bulls will be thrilled if he's even just some of that. But dad knows, and he knows this kid is determined.
"The first time he walked through the door when he got hurt, he said, 'Dad, don't feel sorry for me,'" Sonny recalled. "His new number two? This is a new chapter for him. I know he wants to start a new chapter and move on. This time he can work on his game and not have to do therapy all summer. You can see he's much stronger, has athleticism and bounce.
"I always told him the NBA stands for, 'No Boys Allowed,'" Sonny said. "He gets it. He didn't fear anything (coming back from the second ACL surgery). He was going to the basket, doing things athletically. He continues to play the same way he's been playing. You go out tentatively and not sure, you get hurt. The mental part is good. He overcame the physical part. It was just a matter of time.
"He came back last season, had 35 one game (in April), the last game 25," Sonny noted. "You could see him coming around. Now he'll have a jump start on the coming season. He wants to contribute and help as much as he can. He has a good team attitude. I said, 'Jabari, how many points did you score?' He said, "Dad, we won the game.'"