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Jabari Parker shares what Chicago means to him in Players’ Tribune

Jabari Parker smiles during a news conference where he was introduced as the newest member of the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in his hometown of Chicago. | Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

It’s a question Jabari Parker has been asked countless times since the Bulls announced his homecoming in July.

“What does it feel like to be a Bull, to be coming back to Chicago, where it all started?”

Parker tried to answer that question in his most recent Players’ Tribune article published Thursday.

In “This Is What Chicago Means,” the former Simeon star reminisced about his childhood. From playing blacktop basketball at 53rd St. and Garfield Blvd. to dreaming of being the owner of a pair of Air Jordans when he was a tween, Parker has a memory on nearly every corner of South Shore, where he grew up.

But Parker noted that not everything about Chicago is great.

Via the Players’ Tribune:

“And it’s being terrified, too. It’s being 18, already committed to play at Duke, walking to Walgreens in the dead of winter and then hitting the concrete when gunshots rang out.

It’s hearing about people like Jahnae Patterson, who was killed this summer by a stray bullet. She was 17, out with friends at a party. It’s not knowing her, but knowing lots of people just like her.

And it’s all the other names we never hear — the almost 3,000 people shot each year, a lot of them who look like me. It’s wanting to help, but also wanting to run.”

Parker always made it clear that he wanted to return to Chicago someday. In 2016, he published a nearly 3,000-word article on Players’ Tribune speaking out against violence in the city and expressing his desire to make an impact.

Simeon coach Robert Smith previously commended Parker’s efforts to give back to the community. That’s what sets him apart from some players who view basketball as a one-way ticket out of town.

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“That’s just who he is,” Smith, who coached Parker to four consecutive state championships, told the Sun-Times last month. “He never wanted to leave his roots. He could have gone to Oak Hill or anywhere when he was in high school, but he chose to stay at home.”

Chicago has a lot of layers, which Parker acknowledged. And despite the troubles and criticism the city faces, Parker considers the Windy City home.

“I guess that’s the thing … my Chicago might not be the same as your Chicago,” Parker wrote. “Or maybe you don’t know Chi at all. But we all know home.

“And Chicago is home. We might all come from different places, but home means something — something powerful — to each of us. We carry home with us, all the good and the bad and the in-between.”