Jeff Benedict: Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Benedict grateful for the opportunity to share Jabari Parker story with the world

Published: Thursday, May 17 2012 1:02 p.m. MDT

I told that story to Jabari a couple days ago when I accompanied him and his parents to the Sports Illustrated offices at the Time Life Building in Manhattan. I had brought them there to meet my editor B.J. Schecter and the Editor-in-Chief Terry McDonell. Sitting in McDonell's office, we looked at old SI covers featuring Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, along with famous pictures of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

Then we went to the Sports Illustrated library, which is the biggest sports library in the world. There are files on every athlete ever written about in the magazine. At one point, my editor pulled me aside and told me to keep Jabari distracted.

While Jabari and I thumbed through the files on his favorite players, my editor led Jabari's parents into his office and showed them an advance copy of this week's issue with Jabari on the cover. We'd kept it a secret that Jabari had been chosen for the cover. Jabari had no idea.

In fact, when we left the Sports Illustrated building, Jabari still didn't know he was on the cover. He didn't find out until just before early editions hit the newsstands in New York City. Hours later we were in a restaurant seated beneath a portrait of Roger Maris. By that point Jabari knew he was on the cover. And people were starting to notice him.

The busboy working our table approached me and said: "He's on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, right?" I nodded.

By the time we left the restaurant, others had noticed him, too. The waiter. A few restaurant patrons seated near us. But Jabari was still Jabari, holding the door for his mother as we exited onto 50th Street.

"New York is a great city," I told him.

"Yeah, I like it. I like the people here."

I thought to myself — They are going to like you, too.

Related top list: All-time list of returned LDS missionaries in professional sports

Related top list: High school athletes who have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated

Related article: Mormon prep basketball phenom Jabari Parker makes the cover of Sports Illustrated

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