"It's crazy. This type of buzz hasn't been here for at least 20 years."
I had heard that phrase a few times on my way to the introductory press conference for the newest Buck. I heard it a few more times once I wiggled my way through the crowd to find my seat. By the time 11:00 a.m. rolled around, several hundred people had packed their way into a small area of the Milwaukee Public Market, some even resorting to standing on tables and chairs to get a better view of what was awaiting them. The gentleman sitting next to me was scoping out the crowd as well, and he was the last person to make some variation of the above phrase before I started to hear loud cheering from the ground floor.
Eventually, the cheers made their way upstairs, and a tall (and surprisingly fit looking) man made his way through the crowd, waving in the direction of the cheers with a big smile on his face. A guy Bucks fans had been hoping for since last fall--and all throughout the pitiful season that led them to this point--was now approaching the podium. Jabari Parker had finally arrived in Milwaukee.
From the second Andrew Wiggins was selected by Cleveland, you could tell that the Bucks brass was ecstatic that their guy was available for them to select. Both Genergal Manager John Hammond and Head Coach Larry Drew still seemed to be on quite a high.
"You know we said last night when we went down and talked to the media about this pick and about Jabari, we said that we can make it real simple and say, 'tonight we got better' and that's what really happened to us. This is a great opportunity for us as an organization, to be sitting here with Jabari, to have a player like this. One part is Jabari Parker the player, but I think more important to us in the long run is going to be Jabari Parker the man and what he stands for."
"Man, this is unbelievable. Three weeks ago I was sitting in Los Angeles watching Jabari work out, and to be honest, I sat there and visioned him in a Bucks uniform. I just thought to myself, 'boy if this happens, that'll be something really really special.' And behold, sitting there at the table last night, I'm looking at John looking at me and we're watching the commissioner head to the podium, and everybody was kind of holding their breath. I mean you could've, heard a pin drop in that room. And when they announced Andrew Wiggins as the first pick, I kind of looked around the room and just looked at the faces, and I could see guys were really trying to hold their composure. When it came to our pick, you could see guys, I mean faces just changed because we knew we got the man that we really wanted. We really did."
Not only did the Bucks get their guy, but Parker also went to the team that he was hoping to go to. It was no secret that Parker and the Bucks had an affinity for each other, and Parker acknowledged how special this selection was for him.
"Well most importantly, the organization was all in. I just had to roll with somebody that was very honest with me and was going to be frank, and I just appreciate somebody taking me."
"It means a lot [for the Bucks to take a chance on me]. They're really taking their chances on a guy like me, and I had the opportunity and the blessing to get that prior to being a professional. I had that at Duke, I had that at high school, so to keep on going where I'm wanted and where I'm embraced."
Being embraced by Milwaukee should come easy for Parker, as his high character, as well as his tremendous basketball ability, will be welcomed immediately by the Bucks community. This was made pretty obvious when Parker was offered a chance to back off a little bit from his statement last night that he wants to stay with one team for his whole career. Comments like that can be hastily made in the heat of the moment and nobody would be bothered too much if he stepped back just a tiny bit on it. But Parker did not really hesitate to respond and didn't express any other sentiment than the one he did last night, and the crowd in attendance--though it's only a small sample of the Bucks fanbase--gobbled that up and erupted into applause. I think it's safe to say Parker will be thought of pretty highly for a while. Not only did the Bucks get their guy, but the city of Milwaukee did, too.
Six months ago, the Bucks didn't really have much to get enthused about. They had Giannis Antetokounmpo slowly becoming a media darling, but there wasn't that extra punch that really got people fired up. Fast forward to today, and the Bucks have just added a premiere talent to their growing amount of young talent. Pair that with Herb Kohl deciding to pass the torch on to new owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens--two guys who make it appear like just about anything is possible for this franchise--and it looks like you have the fresh start that fans have been begging for--and one that the team has desperately needed--for quite some time. As John Hammond put it today, "Folks, there's a new day in Milwaukee basketball here," and damn isn't that exciting.
Parker, on his character:
"Well it just brings me peace when I'm a good guy. You know, I may be judged for passing a couple autographs, but I try at the end of the day to be a good guy. More importantly, it's having that pure conversation with people, and I enjoy people. I know I'll be able to learn a little bit of them and you know, just have a chance to relate because we're all equal at the end of the day."
Parker, on his role:
"I see myself as another guy on the team, and just fulfill my role. I think it starts there. We see in the San Antonio Spurs, not one person shines, or not one overpowers the other because they're all a unit and because they win they're all successful so I want to try to bring that same mentality myself and try to show that within the team."
Parker, introducing Marquette Head Coach (and former Duke Assistant) Steve Wojciechowski:
"This is the guy who will sign my checks when I babysit his kids."
(Sidenote: How cool would Jabari be as a babysitter? He'd let you have snacks right before bed, I bet (aka, the BEST kind of babysitter).
WOOOOO pic.twitter.com/DWi6xkhNch— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) June 27, 2014
Bango approves of Parker