[In the early 1990s, the Dallas Mavericks drafted a dream nucleus of Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn, and Jason Kidd. The Maverick marketeers stamped the trio with the Texas-tinged name of “the Triple J Ranch,” and big things were expected in Reunion Arena for years to come. But, by 1997, the Three J’s were all gone, victims of a fourth “J”: jealousy. Rather than recap the whole sordid mess, I’d recommend this Secret Base video. Hats off to this community website for cutting through the complexity.
Sometimes lost in this old tale of youthful jealousy is just how good these three individual players were. The following article, published in Street & Smith’s Pro Basketball 1994-95 Yearbook, drives home that point for Jim Jackson. Despite his differences with the other J’s, he was the real deal coming into the NBA. Here’s the always-fantastic Fran Blinebury to tell the story.]
Randy Ayers remembers the first time he saw him. It was on one of his recruiting trips, when the Ohio State coach would make his way to Toledo by driving across the bridge that cut through the middle of a park that is popular with joggers at all times of the day. This time, it was 7:30 in the morning, and Ayers was lucky that he didn’t lose control of his car after he caught a fast glimpse of a 6-feet-6, 220-pound jogger wearing a weighted vest and churning with a determined stride down the path. Jim Jackson, he was told. The kid was a regular out on the jogging trails, even showing up in his weighted vest as early as 5:30 AM on school days to get in his mileage.
In the summertime, Jackson would often ride his bicycle to one of the playgrounds not far from his home. He would pedal there as fast as he could with a basketball under one arm, then dismount, and position the bike in such a way under the basket that when the ball went through the net, it would hit the handlebars and bounce back out for Jackson to retrieve it and shoot. Again and again.
He’d take 500 shots a day. Or 1,000. Or more. He would do drills to improve his footwork. He would spin under the basket and flick reverse layups and underhand shots. He would pretend he was catching an inbounds pass, turn, and put up a fadeaway shot over an imaginary defender’s outstretched arms as he counted down the seconds on the clock inside his head. He would practice the crossover dribble and cutting left and right.
Jackson, it seems, has always been a student of the game, and now, he has taken those lessons to Dallas, where he’s joined Jamal Mashburn in attempting to lift the Mavericks back into NBA contention. The fourth player taken in the 1992 NBA draft, Jackson missed the first 54 games of his rookie season because of a contract dispute with Mavericks owner Donald Carter. After Jackson finally signed in March 1993, he joined Charlotte’s Alonzo Mourning and Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal as the third rookie that season to have a run of at least seven straight games of scoring 20 or more points.
“Jim Jackson is the truth,” said Sacramento guard Spud Webb. “If he gets his shooting down, he could be another Michael Jordan. He can get wherever he wants on the court, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you put a body on him, he just shrugs it off. He has God-given strength and ability.”
With his chiseled build, Jackson carries the strength and all-round talent like a natural. Though he played his college ball for Ayers at Ohio State, his game is more like that of Oscar Robertson. The 6-feet-5, 215-pound “Big O” set 14 NCAA records at the University of Cincinnati, played with Jerry West and Jerry Lucas on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, and showed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks the way to the NBA championship in 1971.
“If Jim Jackson isn’t a superstar in this league, then I don’t belong here,” said former Dallas teammate Derek Harper. “The guy just walks onto the floor, and you know what he can do. He was blessed with the whole package.”
It is Jackson’s work ethic and dedication to detail that brought him this far. Behind the fluid motion and smooth look to his game is a blue-collar worker who carries his lunch pail and hits the timeclock every day. He realizes that some athletes are given the kind of bodies that can make them great, but that the greatness comes only from repetition and sweat.
Jackson grew up trying to emulate former New York Knicks great Bill Bradley, now a U.S. senator from New Jersey. He read Bradley’s book about studying the game. He learned that Bradley improved his ballhandling skills by setting up chairs on a court and then dribbling through them while wearing special glasses that did not allow him to look down. He read that Bradley once went on a vacation cruise with his family and surprised the other passengers on the ship by getting out a basketball and dribbling through the crowds on the sundeck. He learned there is no vacation from practice.
Thus, the job of helping to pick the lowly Mavericks up off the floor and lift them back into playoff contention could not seem to be in better hands. You put him into the same lineup with Mashburn, and there is obviously great hope for the future.
“I feel extremely confident that in a short time we’ll be able to get there,” Jackson said. “Jamal and I both came from winning programs at Kentucky and Ohio State, and we know what it takes to win.”
What it takes, along with ability, is hard work, and Jim Jackson has never been afraid of that.