While the world of professional sports has seen plenty of colorful characters, few have been as distinctive as Stephen Jackson. While he spent 14 years as an NBA player, he also plied his trade all over the globe; he’s also had his fair share of controversial moments and has found recently taken up podcasting.
Jackson may have had a solid NBA career, but he never did enough to earn himself a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Despite that reality, he’s still remembered fondly as a pretty great teammate.
Stephen Jackson’s one-of-a-kind basketball career
No matter which team you remember him suiting up for, you probably associate Stephen Jackson with the NBA. His basketball career, however, began in some much more exotic locales.
Despite being ruled academically ineligible during his time in college, Jackson was still selected in the second round of the 1997 NBA draft. He never got to play for the Phoenix Suns, however, and found himself on waivers. He wasn’t ready to call it quits, though.
Without an NBA job, Jackson joined the Continental Basketball Association; he also spent time in Australia, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Eventually, that effort paid dividends; in 2000, he got another chance in the association, this time joining the New Jersey Nets.
While Jackson didn’t light the league on fire, he did enough to land a job with the San Antonio Spurs; despite some injury issues, he became a key part of the club’s run to the 2003 NBA title. He wouldn’t stay in Texas for long, though, choosing to enter free agency in hopes of landing a big-money contract.
Jackson signed with the Atlanta Hawks and, in 2004, was traded to the Indiana Pacers. He spent several seasons there before joining the Golden State Warriors; those years would prove to be some of the best of the forward’s career. He went on to suit up for the Bobcats, Bucks, Spurs, and Clippers before retiring in 2015.
That career, however, wasn’t without controversy
During his time in the NBA, Stephen Jackson wasn’t solely known as a forward capable of playing tough defense and chipping in on the offensive end. He, unfortunately, found himself involved in quite a few controversies over the years.
During his time with the Pacers, Jackson was involved in the infamous ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl. He, along with Ron Artest, was one of the players who entered the stands; Jackson punched a fan,—according to Bleacher Report, he later said it “felt good”—received a sizable suspension, and landed on probation. He would find himself in hot water again after firing a gun into the air after being hit by a car outside of a strip club, as documented by ESPN.
While those were the most notable incidents in Jackson’s career, there have been some additional blips on the radar. The forward was fined in 2012 for threatening “serg Abaka” on Twitter; he’s also called out Tony Parker on more than one occasion.
Stephen Jackson isn’t a Hall of Famer, but he was a pretty good teammate
While Stephen Jackson may have had a long and colorful basketball career, he didn’t do enough to earn a place in Springfield. The forward averaged 15.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists during his time in the association; those are solid numbers, but Basketball-Reference lists his Hall of Fame chances at 0 percent for a reason.
Despite that reality and some of his controversial behavior, Jackson did earn plenty of praise as a great teammate. As noted on the Spurs official website in 2012, that attitude may have stemmed from the tragic death of his brother when the forward was 16 years old. “You can’t tell me seeing his brother die that way hasn’t had an effect,” former Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh explained. “To me, it’s why he is always coming to the help of his teammates.”
Walsh isn’t the only one who saw that reality, though. Tim Duncan called Jackson “the ultimate teammate.” Matt Barnes, who Jackson now has a podcast with, told the Mercury News that the forward was “very loyal, loving, and just an all-around good guy. Being his friend is an honor.” Head coach Don Nelson even made him a co-captain of the Warriors, due in large part to the team’s collective respect for the veteran.
Even Jackson’s role in the Malice at the Palace can be traced back to that reality. “I regret hitting the fan, but I don’t regret helping my teammate. I regret the world seeing me do that, I regret that happening at an NBA game, but I never regret helping my teammates,” he told ESPN in 2005. “There’s no way I would have went in the stands if my teammate wouldn’t have went in there. I was raised that if I’m with you and we get in a fight, I’m going to help you. We’re going down together. That’s how it goes. These guys in here are like my family.”
During his time in the NBA, Stephen Jackson wasn’t a perfect person or a Hall of Fame-quality player. He did, however, find a role as a capable complimentary player and a respected teammate.