After the Lakers shipped Shaquille O’Neal to the Lakers and decided to build around Kobe Bryant, the front office introduced a revolving door of players. There were borderline All-Stars and complete unknowns. Smush Parker was one of the latter. What happened to Smush Parker after a two-season stint with the Lakers and his subsequent retirement?
Overview of Smush Parker’s NBA Career
Parker was already a journeyman even before his NBA career began. He played in Southern Idaho and Fordham in college, went undrafted in 2002, signed with the Cavaliers, decided to take his talents overseas, and then took his chances again in the NBA, all in two years.
When he returned, Parker spent his time with the Pistons and Suns, but mostly for their development teams. The only team that gave him a real chance was the Lakers in 2005 after trading Shaq to Miami. Parker eventually started for Phil Jackson that year, which was not a surprise since the Zen Master was known to favor bigger guards for his infamous Triangle Offense.
Parker was a pleasant surprise in his initial few games in a Laker uniform. He scored 20 points in three of the first four outings and started 162 games in two seasons, averaging a respectable 11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. In the classic seven-game duel with Steve Nash and the Suns in the 1st Round of the 2006 playoffs, Parker averaged an elite 2.1 steals. However, he did not have a good relationship with the coaches and beefed with Kobe Bryant really badly.
After his stint with the Lakers, Smush played for two NBA teams and went all over the world’s basketball circuit. He took his talents to Venezuela, Croatia, Greece, and Tunisia, just to name a few. He did not officially announce his retirement, but he last played for the Albany Patroons in the North America Premier Basketball (NAPB) league.
For a Smush Parker NBA career highlights mixtape, you may feast on this one.
What Happened to Smush Parker After the NBA?
Parker was still playing basketball after his NBA stints. Aside from playing overseas, Parker also took part in a TBT tournament and went all the way to the semifinals.
The latest news about Parker was his intention to become a referee, announcing his desire in an Instagram post. If Parker is successful in becoming an NBA official, he will join an exclusive club of three former NBA players– Leon Wood, Bernie Fryer, and Haywoode Workman– to have made the transition.
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Parker will need to spend years perfecting his trade, starting with youth games and moving up through the leagues, if he is dedicated to becoming a referee. He’s presently employed with The Basketball League, a new professional league that debuted in 2018.
Proud of former @PatroonsAlbany & current TBL Ref @SmushParker21
It is part of our vision to be a ‘showcase league’ where players become more than players
Next stop @nba
16-year NBA veteran Smush Parker is working towards a career as a NBA official 🙌 pic.twitter.com/A8ip9chGSV
— TBL (@TBLproleague) January 11, 2023
He may have rubbed coaches and teammates, especially Kobe Bryant, the wrong way, but the fact that he persevered and played for five NBA seasons is encouraging.
Aside from his dream to become a professional basketball referee, Smush also tried to get into the BIG3 but went undrafted for two straight years. Actor Michael Rapaport, also serving as a sideline reporter for the league, felt the teams did Parker dirty as he was ready to play. There are no indications that Parker is looking in that direction again, but only time will tell.
What Happened Between Kobe and Smush Parker?
In his playing days, Kobe Bryant was famously hard to get along with. Some say he had no friends and can be a jerk to teammates, and apparently, that’s what Parker felt himself. Parker admitted that they never really had a relationship, except for the times they were sharing the court together. Kobe never talked to him and was aloof to his teammates.
Parker revealed in an appearance in Highly Questionable how distant Bryant was to him. He said: “I tried to talk to him outside of basketball about football, and he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, ‘You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.”
In an interview, Parker shuffled some feathers when he called his time with the Lakers “overrated.” He explained: “The reason why I say overrated is because everybody thinks that playing with Kobe Bryant is the best thing since sliced bread when it’s not.
CHRIS CARLSON/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press
Bryant and Parker shared memorable moments, especially in that playoff series against Phoenix. Kobe hit the layup to force overtime and the eventual game-winner, but it was Smush who stole the ball from Steve Nash to keep the Lakers’ chances alive.
Bryant obviously had no love lost for Parker as a player. In a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kobe laughingly said Parker shouldn’t have been in the NBA, but the Lakers were too cheap to pay for a point guard.
It was obvious that that comment did not sit well with Parker. Kobe could have been joking about it like he was in this moment with Parker here, but it’s also possible that that was his way of motivating Parker. That apparently had the opposite effect, so if Bryant was really serious about elevating his teammates’ play, he could have pumped the brakes a bit in his standoffishness.
Whatever happened between Kobe and Smush Parker, it seemed like the two had buried the hatchet unofficially. Years before Kobe’s death, Parker contacted Kobe’s foundation and asked them to sign a picture for Pastor Louis Straker, Jr. The pastor frequently incorporates basketball metaphors into his sermons and is a big basketball fan. To Parker’s delight, the ball and photo came back signed, an indication that Bryant hasn’t fostered ill will towards his former backcourt mate.
Parker also revealed that the autograph request came with a short apology that said: ‘For what it’s worth, I apologize for things said or done in the past. Young mind, young thoughts, young actions.’
Wrapping Things Up: What Happened to Smush Parker?
Smush Parker was one of the most hardly-trolled NBA players of any generation, mainly because of the flak he got from Kobe Bryant’s comments. Even so, Parker managed to carve a five-year career, the highlight of which was his Lakers stint. He averaged over 11 points, nearly four rebounds, and four assists per game in 164 games in the Purple and Gold.
What happened to Smush Parker now? Parker was snubbed by the BIG3 league for two years, but he is looking to be a professional basketball referee and eventually make it to the NBA as an official. That will still be a long way off, but it’s a joy to see Smush Parker healthy and still around basketball.
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