The Puzzling Logic of Stephen Jackson

by npiller88

Just don't let MJ see that tat

When Stephen Jackson came to the Golden State Warriors, he was on a mission to rebuild his tattered image. It’s hard not to look back on that famous brawl between the Pacers and Pistons in 2004 without thinking of Jackson, who took a leading role in one of the most embarrassing moments for the NBA in recent memory. At the time, he was a pariah. Ironically, the guy most condemned for his role in the brawl, Ron Artest, has seen his reputation soar in recent years, thanks to winning with the Lakers and charity efforts addressing mental illness. But Jackson’s reputation, on the other hand, seems to be constantly in flux.

Jackson saw a revitalization with the Warriors, and Golden State fans (being the desperate bunch they are), were willing to forgive ANYTHING in exchange for success on the court. And Jackson, despite his poor shooting percentage (career 42%), capably guided the Dubs to playoff success as a classic Don Nelson point forward. But this isn’t a debate about his value.

Throughout every stop in his career (and there have been many), Jackson has frequently tried to explain his volatile behavior, often making matters worse. When he came to Golden State, he addressed concerns over his gun-toting past (he and several other Pacers had been involved at a garden variety NBA strip club altercation, and Jackson fired several 9mm rounds in ‘self defense’), by referencing one of his favorite tatoos. It featured an image of praying hands wrapped around a gun, which Jackson explained meant “I pray I never have to use the gun again.” The remarks just made very little sense. He was trying to allay concerns about his potential to stir up trouble and violence, and he does so by sending a message to OTHERS, essentially suggesting that he can’t control a potentially violent response if he’s provoked, and nor should he. Sure, he’s expressing a sort of tempered remorse, but it falls pretty flat, because there’s no accountability.

It’s never Stephen Jackson’s fault, and if he acts crazy, its always because someone else CAUSED him to respond in such a way. The most recent controversy swirling around Jackson is no different. After Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan and Coach Paul Silas boiled over in public frustration with Jackson’s incessant complaining to the refs, piling up of technical fouls, and distracted, egocentric on-court demeanor, Jackson fired back with this wonderful nugget:

No, I get techs because I want to; I don’t care. I’m not getting techs for no reason. It happens.

Apathy. Now that’ll keep the owner and coach on your side. Another exciting new wrinkle in the deeply complex psyche of Captain Jack. Now, he did step back and admit that he was responsible for his actions, even referencing the fateful brawl:

My reputation is the main reason why a lot of things don’t go my way on the court. I can’t really pout about it and complain about it. I know I put myself in those situations. I went in the stands. I had those incidents off the court, and I’ve got to be responsible for them. I just have to be professional and try to get through it.

Well, he was already featured in a video distributed by the NBA to players about how NOT to behave when speaking with officials. He’s one of David Stern’s “examples” of bad behavior. And so his racking up of 11 technical fouls this season (third in the league) doesn’t quite go along with his vow to be “professional.” And nor does it jive with his flip comment about “wanting” to get technical fouls. He can’t be apathetic and proud while trying to be professional.

Perhaps this all stems from Jackson’s inflated sense of self. I think he truly believes he is one of the league’s greatest talents. Guys like Kobe (an elite talent if I ever saw one) might even complain to the refs more than Jackson, and probably get technical fouls less often, because the NBA hates to piss off its moneymakers. Teammates like Center Nazr Mohammed are reinforcing this notion for Jackson:

He’s one of the elite players in this league, and when he feels like he’s not being treated like some of the elite players in this league, it frustrates him and he gets technicals sometimes.

Depends on your definition of elite, I guess. But according to mine, he’s nowhere near “elite.” Still, he seems to have convinced himself of that notion, which tends to reinforce the voice in his head that says: “there’s a big conspiracy against you.” Jackson, who grew up in a rough part of Texas and witnessed the death of his half-brother at a young age, probably has legitimate reason to be suspicious of those in power. He doesn’t like to be restrained, and I don’t really blame him. But he has to pick an angle here. He can go on being inflexible and stubborn, or he can try to be more professional. But it seems like he always treads a narrow path between yearning for an improved reputation or great accolades, and holding on to his ‘I don’t give a s**t’ image.

In the mean time, he should avoid showing off his tats at press conferences. Baby steps.

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2 Comments to “The Puzzling Logic of Stephen Jackson”

  1. I think I would enjoy seeing a documentary about Stephen Jackson. Just a strange character all around. It’s weird that he’s self-aware but doesn’t do anything to change.

  2. A documentary would be scintillating. He’s another one of these NBA guys who struggles with maintaining a rough exterior but wants to be appreciated by all. Its a tough balance to strike.

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