If this works as well as everyone thinks it will, if Jabari Parker is the player and person everyone thinks he is, if he follows through on the old-school one-team loyalty goal he says he desires, then you can almost picture the future memories.
You can conjure up a cold March Friday night in 2019, a moment after Parker has just scored his 40th point. He looks to the courtside seats, where father Sonny sits, because the train ride from Chicago is an easy commute. He looks further up into the stands, and sees precious few empty seats, even up in the nosebleed ones, which don’t make noses bleed nearly as much as the old Bradley Center did.
Jabari Parker knows the role he played in getting this franchise turned around and this new arena built. He knows he had help from 7-footer Giannis Antetokounmpo and others in helping turn a laughingstock into a winner, which built enough momentum to convince a once-skeptical public to finance the final 20 percent of this $500 million facility, the heart of Milwaukee’s Downtown renaissance.
Now, Kohl’s Court is one of the NBA’s most intimidating battlegrounds, which is why a second 7-footer, free agent Joel Embiid, signed here, though it didn’t hurt knowing that the city’s hot concert scene would always include Miley Cyrus. So no, Parker didn’t hesitate in signing that max contract extension, and now the team owns the conference’s best record, and the Bucks appear poised to dethrone an aging LeBron James and the Heat come playoff time, thus putting Milwaukee in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder will surely be waiting there, putting two small markets on the biggest of NBA stages.
Yes, that future may be a long flight of fancy away, but it’s the one the Bucks are banking on. That’s the essence of the multiyear plan owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry envision, and Parker is now one of the linchpins of it. It is oceans of pressure for someone who’s only 19 years old today, and it may be a bigger fantasy than Bucks fans have dared conceive lately, but that’s the fantasy of today’s Bucks reality.
In their new marketing campaign, including this slick commercial that merges history with hope, the Bucks implore fans to buy some tickets and “Own the Future.” But before they can own it, they first have to dream it.
Parker becomes the biggest name in that dream, though he initially seems to demur at the prospect. “I don’t think I’ll be the face of the program,” he said of his immediate Bucks stature Thursday night. “I just want to be somebody that plays along good guys and that’s willing to win.”
They are humble words, and the words Milwaukee fans will want to hear from a rookie. But the truth is, he’ll have to be quite a bit more.
He got this far by living up to his own dreams. Now, he must live up to everyone else’s, too.
There are future memories to be made.
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