Major Parker dies at 44: Gators star helped begin Florida basketball’s rise to greatness

By Staff
November 5, 2022
Major Parker dies at 44: Gators star helped begin Florida basketball’s rise to greatness

Image Credit: UAA

Former Florida Gators basketball star Major Parker has died. He was 44. Florida announced his passing Saturday night via Twitter with neither the cause nor circumstance of Parker’s death known at the time.

Parker died of a heart-related issue. He had been living with limited functionality in his heart the last few years after surviving heart attack that left him in a weeks-long coma, according to a social media post.

Parker, a member of former head coach Billy Donovan’s first recruiting class at Florida, served as team captain across the 2000-01 seasons. He started for the Gators as they advanced to national championship during the 2000 NCAA Tournament and won 89 games during his four-year career, making him a member of the winningest senior class in program history at the time of his graduation.

A highly recruited prospect out of Cardinal Gibbons High School in South Florida, Parker was a coup for Donovan, who was seeking to raise the standard of play for the Gators. Parker took a risk on a young coach, and his effort during every outing proved his dedication to the program. Known as much for his defending as his shot making, he was an emotional leader on the court and mature presence off it, all while helping set a precedent for Florida basketball as Donovan sought to remake the program.

Speaking with back in 2015 about the 2000 Final Four matchup, fellow former Gators star Brent Wright recalled how a technical foul from Parker in that game changed the momentum of the game. Florida eventually won 71-59 with Parker’s play helping fuel a nine-point advantage for UF in the second half.

We needed a spark. When Major Parker got that technical, it got everyone’s attention. We got juiced. We needed it at that moment, him coming off the bench to give us that spark of energy — that was a big momentum-changer,” Wright recalled. “We were a team where, if someone was not playing well or someone was not doing their job, we would get on each other. We respect each other because we know our job and we know what the other person is capable of doing. So if someone was not doing their job or not playing up to their capability then we as teammates, we would get on them. Major doing that, he woke everybody up. We went on that run and just ran them out the gym.”

Following a short but uneventful professional career, Parker joined the Gators as a staff member; however, a drug bust after his first season with the team led to his firing by Florida. Parker cleaned up his act and became a stalwart of the South Florida youth basketball scene where he was an advocate for the game and its local players.

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