MILWAUKEE — It was impossible to see Jabari Parker coming to the top floor of the Milwaukee Public Market because of the swarm of people gathered, but Milwaukee’s newest star received an ovation so thunderous when he entered the building that everyone knew he had arrived.
Hundreds of people crammed into a small space Friday to welcome Parker to Milwaukee, some dressed in Bucks attire, others wearing or holding Parker’s Duke jersey.
Just as Parker was about to sit down to start his press conference, one fan yelled, "Take us there, Jabari!"
Although Parker has yet to take the floor for a summer league game, the Bucks feel they landed the player who will lead them for years to come.
"When they announced Andrew Wiggins as the first pick to Cleveland, I kind of looked around the room and I could see guys were really trying to hold their composure," Bucks coach Larry Drew said Friday. "Faces just changed because we knew we got the man that we really wanted."
Parker’s father, Sonny, who played six seasons with the Golden State Warriors from 1976-82, and his mother, Lola, were in attendance Friday, as well as Chicago Simeon assistant Jeff Duncan, his siblings, a childhood friend and former NBA guard B.J. Armstrong, now his agent.
"It means a lot," Parker said of the reception he got from the Milwaukee fans. "They are really taking a chance on a guy like me. I have the opportunity and the blessing to get that prior to being a professional. I had that in high school. I just wanted to keep on going where I’m wanted and where I am embraced."
Drew’s mind drifted back to Los Angeles in 1996 when he observed Kobe Bryant’s draft workout was an assistant with the Lakers.
"I remember watching (Kobe Bryant), and I remember getting goose bumps watching this guy workout," Drew said. "I got those same goose bumps three weeks ago (watching Parker’s workout.) I’m just so excited, not just for myself, but for the city of Milwaukee to get a player of Jabari’s caliber."
Parker said a lot of the same things Friday as he did in the days leading up to the draft and after he was picked, again stating he was drawn to coming to the Bucks because of the franchise’s commitment to selecting him.
While meeting with reporters in New York late Thursday night, Parker said he wanted to be a "throwback" player and stay in one place for his whole career. He didn’t back down from that statement Friday.
"I’m really honest," Parker said. "I don’t look forward to leaving any time soon. I want to keep that in my heart because if I just look at it as a short-term deal then things won’t work out."
Maybe more important than the words that came out of his mouth was the poise and maturity displayed by the 19-year-old. At the end of the press conference, a member of the local media approached general manager John Hammond and asked if he was sure Parker wasn’t 39 years old rather than 19.
"I think they get a hard worker," Parker said. "I have a lot of integrity and I have a lot of pride. I’m never satisfied with anything I’m doing. It is always on to the next. You will never see me on social media bragging. I’ll be in the gym all the time."
The poise clearly came across Friday, but Parker was captured breaking down into tears in a hallway a short time after being picked by the Bucks.
"I got real emotional because I put in a lot of hard work to be in this situation," Parker said. "It wasn’t given to me. I didn’t have all the hype. Everything was earned. I just want to keep that mentality as starting off the underdog, and I’m coming to an underdog program."
If Parker’s career with the Bucks turns out anywhere near expected, Friday’s introduction to the city at the Milwaukee Public Market will be remembered as the beginning of a new era. The excitement and buzz was there, now Parker actually has to take the court.
"There’s no better place to be — I feel welcome," Parker said. "Humble beginnings. We at a market. There’s no other place I’d rather be."