Georgia Tech’s Bubba Parham embraces fatherhood, takes on injury

Georgia Tech coach Bubba Parham cheers from the bench during the Yellow Jackets' game against Wake Forest Jan. 19, 2022 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Georgia Tech coach Bubba Parham cheers from the bench during the Yellow Jackets' game against Wake Forest Jan. 19, 2022 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham isn’t nearly ready to become a coach, but he’s getting a glimpse into his ability to encourage and teach daily at home. Parham is ready to start potty training his son, Magic, who is all of a year and a half.

“I feel like he’s ready,” Parham told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s showing all the little signs, I think, of being ready. Most people tell me that I’m crazy and it’s too early, but I don’t think it’s ever too early.”

A little bit about the name. The son of Parham and his girlfriend, Deja Lee – they’ve been together since Parham was starring at Brookwood High – isn’t named after Magic Johnson. Parham said that when Lee was pregnant, they thought only of names for a girl. However, their gender-reveal party didn’t match with their expectations.

A close friend of Parham’s suggested the name Magic. At first, Parham wasn’t keen on it. But then he started envisioning a basketball star son.

“I’m just thinking of basketball headlines and magazines – Slam (magazine), front cover – ‘Magic Parham,’” Parham said. “All this crazy stuff popped in my head. I saw a vision. So I was just like, Yeah, I like that. And then it kind of grew on us. That’s how we chose it.”

In a much different way, Parham is dealing with life not matching expectations and is responding in a way that perhaps young Magic can someday use as a model. After helping the Yellow Jackets win their first ACC championship since 1993 in March, Parham elected to return for his second senior season, his bonus COVID-19 season, along with forward Jordan Usher.

But he tore the meniscus in his right knee in a late-night shooting session before the season, an injury that ultimately turned into a season-ender when the surgically repaired knee didn’t respond well after his first two games. As he plans to apply for a medical-hardship waiver and a third senior season, he watches and waits.

“Taking the time to really get better, get it stronger and just get it to where it needs to be,” Parham said.

Tech plays Clemson at home Saturday, trying to pull out of a slide in which it has won one game against ACC competition in the past five and two in the past nine. Parham will be on the bench, supporting his teammates with as much volume and wisdom as he can summon.

“If you watch the games, I’m going to be the loudest on the bench. I’m going to be the most uplifting person on the bench,” Parham said.

Parham came back to play against Louisville on Jan. 2, the 12th game of the season. He had soreness before the next game, two days later at Duke. But he wanted to play and ended up logging 27 minutes in the loss.

“The day after the Duke game, it didn’t feel good, it felt worse than it did prior,” Parham said. “I was held out of practice that following day, and then I tried it again the next day, and it was just too painful.”

Over the next few weeks, his knee remained sore and did not respond in a significant way to treatment. Pastner indicated that Parham likely wouldn’t play again this season and then Jan. 21, he said conclusively that Parham would not play for the remainder of the season.

It wasn’t easy to make the final call, Parham said. This was supposed to be his final season, and he and Michael Devoe, Khalid Moore and Usher could defend the ACC title together in their senior seasons. But, as he appears to be a strong candidate to receive a hardship waiver to play next season, he’s in line for another senior season. This time, it would be without Usher and likely also Devoe and Moore, and perhaps with freshman teammates who were in eighth grade when Parham was a college freshman at VMI.

“It’s definitely different, definitely not the ideal situation for me,” Parham said. “But like I said, I try to look in a positive aspect and try to take everything into account and just try to make the best decision for me and my health and my family.”

Georgia Tech guard Bubba Parham with his son, Magic. (Photo courtesy of Bubba Parham)

Credit: Special to the AJC

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Credit: Special to the AJC

Assuming his health returns and the waiver is granted, the positives include the opportunity to pursue another degree. Parham is on track to earn his degree in history, technology and society in May. Without Usher and presumably Devoe and Moore (both could conceivably return, although that appears unlikely), that would free more minutes for Parham.

While he came to Tech after two seasons at VMI, where he was a prolific 3-point shooter, Parham was much more than that for the Jackets, showing toughness as a defender and rebounder and operating as an effective cog in the Tech offense. That role could conceivably expand next season. Parham isn’t 100% decided that he will return next season – he also could try to play professionally or go in the transfer portal – but he called it the most likely option.

“I can get more education under me and my name on my résumé, and this year, I can use this entire year to get my knee stronger, get my knee better,” Parham said. “So by the time next year comes around, I’ll be able to play a full season showing and displaying what I can do. There’s very many positives in the situation. There’s obviously some negatives, as well. But it is what it is. Everybody’s story isn’t the same. That’s how I look at it.”

Parham acknowledged that his competitive instincts make it tough for him to sit and watch from the bench.

His surgically repaired right knee feels better walking around, but from a standpoint of allowing him to play basketball, it isn’t doing much better.

“It’s not the best,” he said. “It is getting stronger. I am doing (treatment and strength training) to make sure it gets stronger, but, obviously, I can’t practice or play or anything.”

He has tried to put his energy into being a supportive teammate. Sometimes he does his treatment and strength training during practice, but other times he tries to get it done beforehand so he can be at practice.

“I still want to be that vocal and that veteran guy that’s still in guys’ ears, helping my teammates get better and (sharing) things that I picked up throughout the years,” he said.

It would be easy to withdraw, but Parham is an active contributor to the team’s group-text chain and is quick to encourage or point out mistakes, Usher said.

“Bubba’s just a caring dude,” Usher said.

It is no surprise, then, that fatherhood has fit Parham.

“He’s my rock, he’s my everything,” Parham said of Magic. “That’s my little dawg right there.”

Basketball may be in his future. Magic has no shortage of hoops and balls in the family’s apartment.

“He’s definitely going to have the opportunity,” Parham said. “Whether he wants to play, that’s his decision. But he definitely has all the resources and everything to be really good.”

It’s no fun to miss out on a season because of injury, but there’s worse ways to go through it.

“It was pretty hard for me at first, but I’m starting to see the positives in it and trying to take it one day at a time,” Parham said.

Sounds like pretty good advice for potty training.