Duke has had some major bon vivants over the decades. The archetype was probably Art Heyman, who had some legendary big times at Duke.
About fifteen years later, Mark Crow set the standard for having a good time and not too long after he showed up, Kenny Dennard embraced and extended the tradition, even posing nude for a local magazine except for a strategically placed basketball. Dennard had an unreasonable amount of fun at Duke.
One of the more recent guys in the tradition is Cherokee Parks.
We should stop here for a moment and say although Mike Krzyzewski has run a tight ship at Duke, he has had have a few other guys like this, notably Alaa Abdelnaby and Robert Brickey. The tradition is not nearly as glorious now as it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s though.
Many of you may remember that Parks had a reputation as a guy who really enjoyed partying. This extended into the NBA and beyond.
Parks‘s parents were hippies and when he was young they split up and he lived a somewhat itinerant life with his mother and his sister, Corey, who later became well known in her own right as a 6-4 fire breathing bass player in a band called Nashville Pussy.
Like Corey, Cherokee found his way into punk music, owning a bar after his NBA career, but at some point, something funny happened.
When you are raised in a particular way, you often wish you had what you missed. And for Parks, what he missed was, basically, a predictable middle-class life.
He talks in this article about how he would see people going home in their work clothes when he was heading off to a game and wish he was with them. He also talks about how much he values structure, which we don’t think he had a lot of as a child and certainly not as a young man. He also says that “I thrive when there’s a program. I like when there’s an in itinerary, a syllabus.”
As much as we enjoy the NBA and as much as so many guys fantasize about making it, the honest truth is that it’s not for everyone. Remember former Maryland great Albert King? He was in the same class as Gene Banks and Magic Johnson and was supposed to be the best freshman in 1978.
He was pegged for greatness but his real passion, as it turned out, was running restaurants. He walked away from the game and opened a Wendy’s. His interests lay somewhere else.
To an extent, that’s the case for Parks.
He never really cared for the day-to-day life of a player, until a short-lived comeback, but he’s developed an incredible passion for working in the league office and learning how to do things like spread sheets.
It’s one of the stranger stories we’ve heard about a Duke player but also one of the most heartwarming. The kid who longed for a stable life, who wasn't sure he loved one of his biggest gifts in life, loves the game again and has found stability and passion. we couldn’t be happier for him.
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