I work in Chicago, and live in a northwest suburb of the City. So I’ve been following from afar the young basketball phenom Jabari Parker. It has been fun to read all the articles about the humble, serious-minded young man, excellent student, tight-knit family, with off the charts basketball skills. And oh yes, he’s black. And Mormon. Living on the south side of Chicago. He’s just an impressive, grounded young man. (And his mom Lola is hell on wheels!)
So I open my mailbox today and he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It’s a really nice article. But one of the big angles is whether he will serve a mission, or play a year of college ball and then be off to the NBA.
This issue is mentioned in the article, but then there’s a sidebar talking about this choice faced by Mormon athletes: to serve or not to serve? The article talked about athletes who served, such as Chad Lewis, and those who didn’t, such as Steve Young or Danny Ainge.
On the one hand, a Manti Te’o deciding to return to Notre Dame has about a million times more influence for the good of the Church than some random missionary knocking doors somewhere. On the other hand, boys are socialized from their earliest days to go and serve, and it is a rite of passage that many sorely want to experience.
I have an opinion on this question, but I’ll hold it, at least for now. I want to hear what you think. If you were in Jabari’s substantial shoes, what call would you make? Mission or stay on the basketball path?