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Simeon's Jabari Parker (22) and Kendall Pollard (24) celebrate after a slam dunk by Pollard. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
PEORIA — Now that Jabari Parker’s high school resume is complete, a burning question remains. Where does he rank among the all-time greats in Public League basketball history?
One thing is certain. No player has left his imprint on the record books the way Parker has. He’s been ranked as high as No. 1 in the country, and now stakes claim to four state championships.
"I've had the distinct honor of coaching two of the best who ever played in Chicago," said Simeon coach Robert Smith, referring to Derrick Rose and Parker. "Jabari's legacy speaks for itself."
Public League basketball coordinator and former King all-stater Levertis Robinson has a simple formula for evaluating who the best Public League player is. He asks himself who the crowds came to see. Parker, Rose, and King’s Jamie Brandon and Marcus Liberty are a few who come to mind.
Former Carver and South Shore coach Don Pittman is a big fan of Parker’s.
“When you talk about Jabari, he would be in my all-time top five,” Pittman said. ‘‘He actually represents the new power forward who is not limited by his size. He can step out, shoot it, handle the ball and can do it all.”
Former Julian coach Talmadge Milan, who played at DuSable in the 50s and was an assistant coach at Vocational in the Juwan Howard era said: “To the people now, Jabari is ‘it,’ but some of them have never heard of names like Sweet Charlie Brown, Paxton Lumpkin or Shelley McMillan. They were all great players in their time.’’
Former Crane coach Dan Davis, who played in the early 60s, stood up for the West Side, listing names like George Wilson, Frank Burks, Willie Jones, Emmett Bryant and Tim Robinson. But Davis conceded that Parker has a special talent.
“If you take every player that has ever played basketball in the Chicago Public League in the past six decades and you are included in the top 20, you can play,” Davis said.
George Stanton, who coached two of Chicago’s all-time greats — Quentin Richardson at Young and Ben Wilson on Simeon’s Frosh-Soph team — said there are similarities between Parker and Wilson.
“The comparison starts with both having great positive attitudes, tremendous work ethics, [a] will to win and being great teammates,” Stanton said. ‘‘I couldn’t give an answer based on accomplishments because the game is so different now and it wouldn’t be fair. If I was really pressed for an answer, I would have to give an edge to Ben.”
Don Russell played at Carver in the 60s under the legendary Larry Hawkins and coached at Amundsen, Lincoln Park and Vocational. He believes that Parker is the whole package.
“He is one of the most fundamental players that has come around in a long while,” said Russell, who is all-time great Cazzie Russell’s brother. ‘‘At his size he is able to do things that they didn’t allow players to do back in the day, but he clearly has all the talent that allows him to play three positions at a high level. Not too many people have been able to do that. He would be in my top five.”
Other names regularly mentioned when discussing the “best of all-time” are Nick Anderson, Mark Aguirre, Ronnie Fields, Kevin Garnett, Tom Hawkins, Hersey Hawkins, Robinson and Deon Thomas.
After capping his remarkable career with yet another title, Parker is destined to forever be in the discussion.