At the end of the season, Jabari Parker will be 19 years old, and he is projected as a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA draft. He could choose to begin his professional career, he could shun conventional wisdom, put his millions on hold and return to Duke or he could choose a third option.
Like all young Mormons, Parker will have the choice to serve a mission. Missionaries are predominantly male and have traditionally served their 18-to-24 month missions at the age of 19, though an Oct. 2012 rule change gives men the option to go after their high school graduation, even if they are still 18.
Joe Cannon, the bishop Parker accompanied during his monthly visits to families in their congregation, never asked him specifically about his plans for a mission.
And I did that because I knew there was a huge amount of consideration that would have to take place by himself and within his family, Cannon said. I know that hell feel pressure from his experiences in the church that maybe he should go and would feel weird if he didnt go and everyone sat there judging him about it. I just wanted to make it clear to him that I wasnt judging him about it. I feel like if he does great at basketball and makes choices in his life and doesnt get tied up in some of the problems the world has to offer, then Im sure that he will have a lot more great experiences to share feelings on the gospel than he would if he just went on a mission
You look at people who have been really successful in sports, like Steve Young. He didnt serve a mission, but hes very dedicated to the church, and he sets such a great example because so many people knew him and loved him and watched him. It just gives a great opportunity to share your experience.
A high percentage of young Mormon men do go on missions, Cannon said, but no one is required to. Parkers older brother, Christian, went on one.
Parkers mother, Lola, said it will be up to him to decide, and his family will support his decision.
Weve raised our children to make choices but also have integrity, she said. To be respectful and be kind and be honest. If you have those basic, simple values, then all the other stuff just kind of adds on to it. And so, weve told Jabari either way, if you want to go, its fine.
Parker said he does think about a potential mission, but he doesnt look at it as a burden.
Its about individual growth and development. What you can do to keep yourself away from your selfish intake and just worrying about others, just spreading out your joy and passion. I guess through basketball, Im kind of doing it now, he said. But if I do need the time to improve myself, then I would go just to help me out in life.