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A Challenging Year: Best friends Devin Foster, Jabari Parker lean on each other through health struggles

Devin Foster and Jabari Parker.

Jabari Parker has almost fully recovered from his second ACL tear. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is playing about 20 minutes a game and the future is bright.

Injury rehab can be as challenging mentally as it is physically. Parker received some help in that department the past year from his best friend, former All-City Curie guard Devin Foster.

Foster, 24, started having serious kidney issues at about the same time Parker suffered his injury. That gave the two friends extra time to talk and commiserate over health issues.

“Devin was born with weak kidneys and didn’t stay on top of everything,” Parker said. “He’s on the waiting list trying to find a kidney.”

The friends have leaned on one another heavily recently.

“[Foster’s] words always strengthen me,” Parker said. “He helped me push forward in my rehab. His approach is a lot more mature now. He understands his timing and his journey and he’s staying positive through some really tough times. I’m so grateful to have a friend like that. He’s had troubles, hasn’t seen really good things. But he’s still been a positive influence.”

Foster and Parker have been friends since they were nine-year-old club basketball teammates. Foster picked up a nickname back then that has stuck: “Cheese.”

“Whenever I was out eating with my AAU team I would order a double cheeseburger,” Foster said. “I was kinda chubby. People have been calling me ‘Cheese’ since then.”

Foster and Parker faced off in the city title game in 2012, they even spent large stretches of the game guarding each other. Foster outscored Parker 19 to 13, but Simeon won the game.

Curie’s Devin Foster shoots a jumper over Jabari Parker of Simeon. Patrick Gleason/ For the Sun-Times.
Curie’s Devin Foster shoots a jumper over Jabari Parker of Simeon. Patrick Gleason/ For the Sun-Times.

Foster played at Mott Community College and then Robert Morris after graduating from Curie. His senior year at Robert Morris was cut short by kidney failure.

“He got extremely ill after a game last season,” said Foster’s mother, Angela. “He’s been doing the home dialysis, cleansing every night for nine hours.

“On Monday he had surgery to put a catheter in his neck to do hemoglobin dialysis. It was really rough. It was like he was having a chemo treatment. There was a lot of vomiting for hours and a lot of cramps. He’s just a fighter at this point.”

Robert Morris guard Devin Foster against St. Xavier. Provided by Robert Morris.
Robert Morris guard Devin Foster against St. Xavier. Provided by Robert Morris.

The Parker family is well acquainted with kidney issues. Sonny Parker, Jabari’s dad and a former NBA player, has dealt with kidney problems for years. He’s in much better health these days thanks to Jabari’s older brother Christian.

“Christian donated the kidney back in the summer of 2015,” Parker said. “[Sonny Parker] is going good now, he’s stable.”

Angela Foster says the waiting list for a kidney in Illinois is about seven years.

“We’ve all tested to see if we could donate,” Angela Foster said. “A young lady that was a good friend of his was tested, none of his brothers was a match. He can’t wait seven years.”

Foster hears from Parker all the time, even though he is back at the NBA grind. The friends now talk about health and injury stuff more than basketball.

“He like a big little brother to me,” Foster said. “We motivate each other to do things the right way. We try to keep each other happy and make each other smile every day.”

Foster is in good spirits despite his failing health. But he knows the clock is ticking.

“I’m trying to take care of myself,” Foster said. “It’s stressful. I know that no day is promised. I have to find a match.”

The Foster family says that all expenses will be paid and any time off work will be compensated for anyone that wants to be tested to see if they are a match to donate a kidney.

Email Angela Foster at for more information.