“People get fed up dealing with parents and that is what happened with my dad.”

Ten years ago, Marquise Walker was a “YouTube Wonder.” He made videos with LeBron James and Derrick Rose, to name a few. Marquise was extremely talented, articulate and adorable. And…Marquise was only eight-years old.

His father paraded, positioned and pushed Marquise like a hot commodity to be sold. The dad carefully groomed him through relentless workouts and travel to tournaments and PR appearances. Marquise said he “wanted to be in the NBA to be on a team and for the money”…at age eight!

Fast forward to today. Marquises’ high school basketball career has ended, and almost nothing in his life looks like their “hoop dreams.” The college scholarship offers have disappeared. Marquise has been homeless. Had bouts of extreme depression. They moved half-way across the country in grade school to play for a different team, thinking that would better position him for stardom. He’s bounced around to three different Chicago-area high schools.

The dad, now in prison, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2010, accused of being part of a network of black-market travel agents, along with others in a multi million-dollar fraud scheme. Both father and son have deep regrets.

“My dad really stressed only basketball,” Walker said. “My life, my happiness didn’t matter. Don’t abuse your kid for basketball. I accepted being mentally and physically abused because I loved basketball. And I loved the stardom of it, I lived for them.”

“I wanted to live my dreams through Marquise’s accomplishments athletically and it turned into a singular focus of mine,” Chikosi Walker (dad) said. “I want to apologize to my son for taking joy out of what was once a beautiful game and a beautiful father and son relationship. I need the world to know that I’m sorry.”

“My dad messed up a lot of people wanting to be around me,” Marquise said. “He was kind of like LaVar Ball. People get fed up dealing with parents and that is what happened with my dad.”

Despite the mess, Marquise is attempting to rebuild his life and appears to be finishing his senior year on schedule. He now hopes that he can continue to use basketball via the junior college route to continue his education and the path to a healthier life.

“I wanted to understand myself and love my family,” Walker said. “I wanted to surround myself with people that generally love me, not just because I am good at basketball. I wanted love that reaches beyond just because I’m good at basketball.”

Chikosi Walker is scheduled to be released from prison in October of 2020. Marquise says he only talks to his dad occasionally, “to make sure he is fine. He’s not a demon or a devil. He was young, he made a lot of mistakes. When I was younger the abuse was physical. But I’m not here to try and make my dad this bad person. I love my father. Mind you, now I control my recruiting and everything that has to do with basketball.”

Marquise is just one example of how overly-competitive parents create a “performance culture” in their homes leaving young kids to feel that the only way for them to be loved and respected by their parents is through high performance, by winning at whatever the game is…be it sports, academics or performing arts.

I’m grateful that Marquise has a stable living arrangement and will graduate from high school on time. But because he’s such a talented athlete he’ll still be thrust into the sports arena in a way that will continue to mess with his ego and identity. And that will certainly cause the mental struggles to continue.

Trying to live vicariously through our children has no positive implications.

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Quotes are taken from: “Marquise Walker’s story: Surviving an abusive, overbearing sports father” Sun-Times High School Sports by Michael O’Brien, April 12, 2019

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