I would be a senior on this year’s Duke team. We’d be so nice! But this team doesn’t need me. They are already so good. Just being around the guys this past summer at K Academy and playing pickup, I knew this would be a special team. They have all the pieces. The sky is the limit.
If I could give advice for the fellas it would be to live in the moment. Don’t look too far ahead. The hype and build-up is 10 times more than it was even for me with all the social media and all the draft talk. It tries to build you up away from your team and what really matters.
Once you get outside your team, all the individual hype is just noise. It doesn’t really have depth. It comes and it goes. The relationships and moments you gain through the game really matter. I learned that in high school. If you take that approach every time, you will build long-lasting friendships. If you want the people around you to do well, you will be happy. Your team will be better off. That’s the true meaning of a team-oriented person. You become the Duke player that Coach expects. You can’t be looking ahead to the NBA or your stats. You come in humble and ready to work.
What attracted me to Duke were these principles that we cherish. We come from doing everything the right way, and there’s a lot of discipline that I had to learn in order to succeed at Duke and in the NBA. I didn’t care about the hype that other schools attracted during the time. I wanted to be a part of something that was going to make me a better person. That’s what Coach really emphasizes. When you fall into those great habits that Coach teaches, you can gain even more confidence the right way. If you surround yourself with people who want to do the same thing, you have a great team.
I’ve tried to have that same formula in the NBA that I did at Duke. It’s a really fast business, but it still doesn’t give me that excuse that I can’t do what has made me successful and what has made me happy. Off the court, that is just being around people, respecting people, and treating people well. On the court, it’s playing together with five guys for one goal.
Basketball is a team game. Everyone on the team has an important role. The managers at Duke were always doing their thing. They set a tone of us. Their role was important. The walk-ons are important. People who don’t play their role the right way or don’t think they are important end up failing. If everyone buys in and supports one another, they will have the best chance for success. That's how the great teams become family.
My time at Duke went by so fast. It’s already December for those guys. You can’t take it for granted. The opportunity is too big. The thing that I miss most is being around everybody, those relationships that I really cherish. It was purity at it’s finest, because everybody is playing for Duke. That’s the best. It’s not for money and business. I wish I could go back in time and have the opportunity that the guys have this season to play with these guys and the coaches in front of the Crazies. I had a great time at Duke but we didn’t end the right way. I know this year will be different.
Here's what "Senior Year Jabari" would tell the younger guys: Live in the moment. Fall in love with the process of getting better each and every day. Be grateful and humble. Hold your teammates accountable to this. Then, you won’t have any regrets when your time is up. Because down the line, you will want to say that you did everything in your will to get better and to cherish these memories.