Jabari Parker has resumed his career at FC Barcelona. Beyond the NBA, his overseas options led to the powerhouse of European and arguably global basketball.
Following a rocky start and the loss to archrival Real Madrid in Supercopa Endesa, his new team launched the Liga Endesa Regular Season with a win against Joventut Badalona. Tipping off the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season will be next in fresh new starts after two more affairs at the domestic level.
Parker, 28, marked one of the most impressive offseason moves in Europe by joining the Catalonia outfit. The second pick of the 2014 NBA draft, determined to get his career back on track, arrived as the replacement for Nikola Mirotic.
In an interview with Eurohoops, he walked through adapting to Barca and European basketball, weighed in on the World Champion debate, and shared his view on the business aspect of the NBA.
Eurohoops: How are you feeling, Jabari? How would you say the team is right now?
I feel good, personally, about coming into the year with this much depth and experience. So far it’s been alright, I think it’s going to be good.
EH: This is your first experience outside the United States so there is a mandatory first question: what would you say the biggest difference between NBA and European basketball is?
I don’t have so much of an opinion because I am inexperienced, but I think later I will figure it out. So far it’s pretty much similar to how we played in high school or college, where you could stay in the paint since there is no defensive three. So far it’s nice.
EH: I wanted to ask what’s your take on the whole “NBA champions are world champions” drama.
Well, you see it now, right? Everybody can lose. The game has grown since the ’60s and ’70s, when it was predominantly American. Now basketball has been global, to be the world champion you have to play against the best in the world. And especially Euroleague might have, arguably, some of the better players consistently on a team. In the NBA you have a lot of counterparts that don’t really contribute to a talent, maybe political, maybe a favor, whatever. Out here you have to play, you have to be able to be good, you have to have some experience and you see it with teams like us: Abrines played with OKC, Jan played in the Wizards, Sato… This is not like baseball where you have veterans that stay on a team, there is no minor league, where is the room for experienced guys and veterans? That arguably says that you do have some better talent just from the experience. If you have a roster full of guys that have been pro for +10 years, how are rookies or two-year guys exceeding them? You see that around Europe, with many other teams, not only ourselves. Real Madrid has some really good guys on their team too.
EH: You are now mentioning Real Madrid, Barça’s biggest rival which you have already played against this season. The one you played in Supercopa was the first of many Clasicos that will come this season, did you feel it was a different game?
I did, but since it was on a neutral site so I didn’t really see the difference in the fans, there was some balance.
EH: Things didn’t end well in Murcia since the team lost, but there were some positive things too. One of them was seeing you play with a lot of confidence, with no signs of physical problems.
I tore my ACL five years ago, and ever since then I have been playing. My surgery was in 2017 and it’s 2023, that’s a long time between here and there. The injuries are years behind.
EH: Many players decided to move from the NBA and come to Europe to play. Since you are one of them, let me ask you: why is this happening?
I just want to be a part of something legitimate. I want to be a part of ‘every game matters’. Sadly, the NBA is a business and there are 10-12 teams that try to win every game and the other half try to get a Draft pick. Where does that leave good players? You either have to be super good or bad, to lose games. It’s no excuse to see DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, or John Wall, guys who are potentially going into the Hall of Fame… seeing those guys not have a job? We are seeing the league getting watered down, unfortunately. It’s a lot of things that are out of our control. Euroleague and the fans are expecting a lot, and we as players expect a lot from ourselves and we want to compete.
EH: Your signing with Barça was a huge shock, both because of how big is your name and because nobody was expecting Barça to make this kind of move. Can you explain how everything happened?
I knew I wanted to play this season and I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to have to go through the extenuating process of trying to figure out an NBA team that was going to take a chance on me. As soon as we had the conversations with Mario Bruno Fernández I got down here, they pretty much gave me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I decided this was the best place for me.
EH: Is playing here, in Barcelona and in the Euroleague, a way of getting back to the NBA or there is room to play some more years overseas before heading back to the United States?
I like to be in the moment. Everywhere that I go and anywhere that I play is a blessing, just to be on the court. And I know that I will be playing against some great competition, and I want to make this year the best experience that I can.