The second floor of the Milwaukee Public Market had reached its maximum public capacity. There was a man at the steps leading to its second level that informed me they wouldn’t allow anyone else up unless I was in the media or with the Milwaukee Bucks. I got lucky. It wasn’t quite 11:00 AM, when the Bucks told fans their new player would be introduced, and the place was already full? I’m not sure what I expected when walked over to the Market Friday morning, but I guess I didn’t assume so many would turn out to meet Milwaukee’s new basketball player. I never make assumptions when it comes to the Bucks and positive thoughts.
But turn out they did. And it’s starting to seem like I might have to start adjusting my frame of thought.
Bucks fans, and the otherwise curious I suppose, crammed into what’s typically the eating space on the Public Market’s second level and waited to shout their hellos, clap their hands and greet number two pick Jabari Parker.
It’s probably a good thing fans came out in force to show support for Milwaukee’s new forward, because that seems to be the kind of thing he’s into. Before the draft, word came out that Parker seemed to prefer Milwaukee. Then he told reporters he suspected he was going to Milwaukee, because they came out and told him they wanted him. He appreciated that.
“The organization was all in,” Parker said at his press conference. “I got that comfort by being around the guys and the staff. They were all in. As soon as I got their feedback I just rolled with that. I didn’t get any conclusion or any say so from the last organization I worked out with, so I had to just go with what was more realistic. It was real honest.”
Parker seemed thrilled by how much the Bucks said they wanted him. And the Bucks constantly said that they really really wanted him. Larry Drew told a story about the obvious relief and complete excitement on the faces of everyone in the Bucks war room on draft night once the Cavaliers selected Andrew Wiggins. I heard other stories about Bucks executives and coaches that were absolutely giddy about the idea of coaching Parker going forward. He completely won over everyone in the Bucks organization. I’m not sure if he did a basketball workout for them or lead a spiritual revival. Whatever he did, it worked wonders.
And he got a good start with the Milwaukee fans too. He was applauded as soon as he walked into the building, again when he reached the second floor and again when John Hammond said, even though the crowd already beat him to it, the fans should welcome him to Milwaukee. People called for him to look in their direction so they could grab a picture. Others held up Parker Duke jerseys. All this happened in front of what was probably near a dozen TV cameras. How many stations does this city have?
It was a scene I haven’t seen for a Bucks draft pick or a Bucks player period. But Parker appeared composed the whole time, just happy to have the opportunity to do what he loves to do for people who believe in him. He even cracked a few jokes.
“There’s no better place to be, I feel welcome. Humble beginnings,” he said, before noting that Milwaukee had a market and was near Lake Michigan, which he described as “pure” with “great water.”
For the most part, this is now the guy. He’s the new face going forward. The Bucks are going to slap his face on things all over the city. He’ll be on programs, billboards, commercials, bus stops, booklets, pens, pencils, posters, shirts, bobbleheads … his face is going to be everywhere. Expectations are as high as you’d expect for a number two pick that was also deemed the most NBA ready player by most analysts. Jay Bilas and Chad Ford predict he’ll be Rookie of the Year. That he’ll average over 18 points. That would have been enough to lead the team in scoring last season.
Fans of Milwaukee basketball have wanted to be excited for a long time. But probably even more than that, what they’ve really wanted was for OTHER people in Milwaukee to be excited. They don’t want to be alone anymore. They want this to be a team that people love, with players that awe and inspire.
After hearing Drew and Hammond speak words that backed up their actions with regard to Parker, it seems like there’s an intense belief in him that even cuts through the typical press conference feel goodery. Even the biggest skeptic in the room (often me), has to think that the Bucks may have finally got the guy who can legitimately move them in a direction that gets the masses excited about the NBA in Milwaukee once again.
As Parker would tell you though, he can’t do it alone. But he wants to be a part of something big.
“I’m just going to look at myself as another guy on the team,” Parker said when he was asked about being the new face of the franchise. “When you see the San Antonio Spurs, not one person shines or overcrowds the other. They’re all a unit. Because they win, they’re all successful. I want to try and bring that same mentality within myself.”