Has Jackson earned a pass to the Hall?
By Marc J. Spears
Special to ESPN.com
SALT LAKE CITY -- Usually a guy who averaged less than 10 points a game in his career, had one All-Star appearance and no NBA championship rings wouldn't receive consideration for the Hall of Fame. And then there is Mark Jackson, who recently passed Magic Johnson to rank second among the NBA's all-time assists leaders.
"First ballot, first ballot, no doubt," said Jazz forward Karl Malone, who is projected to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. "Why? Who did he pass? You can get to the Hall of Fame by statistics and team winning and things like that. So, there is no doubt in my mind that he has earned that right. I think it's just a formality. I think it is without a doubt."
While there is no doubt in The Mailman's mind, the inclusion of Jackson into the Hall of Fame will probably bring a strong debate among voters.
Mark Jackson has more than 10,000 assists but only one All-Star Game appearance.
But considering where Jackson came from, it's amazing that he is even being talked about being a Hall of Famer.
Following an All-America career at St. John's, the New Yorker was chosen 18th overall in the 1987 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder was named the 1988 NBA Rookie of the Year after averaging 13.6 points and 10.6 assists per game. He was selected to the 1989 Eastern Conference All-Star team and averaged a career-high 18.6 points that season.
While playing for Denver and Indiana during the 1986-87 season, Jackson led the NBA in assists at a career-high 11.4 clip. Entering his 16th season, he never averaged less than 6.3 assists per game in his career. And he's just the third player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists.
"I was hoping to hang around and be successful," said Jackson. "I didn't know it would add up to what it added up to. That would be a dream. But I'm truly grateful and thankful of what I've had coming to this league."
The crowning jewel of Jackson's career arrived on March 16 in Cleveland when his assist to Andrei Kirilenko with 11:20 left in the game moved him past Magic (10,141 assists). Especially since Jackson grew up wanting to be like the Lakers' former "Showtime" floor general.
"It means a lot to me," Jackson said. "There have been a lot of things I've been blessed to accomplish in this league. But to pass, in my opinion, the greatest point guard to play the game is really unbelievable. A kid coming from New York City, playing in all the playgrounds, watching Magic and trying to imitate all the things that he was doing ... To one day have the opportunity to surpass him and do it, is truly a blessing. I'm grateful to the guys I played with who have made the game fun. I felt that they made me as successful as I have been."
Second to Jazz teammate John Stockton in all-time assists, third member of the 10,000-assist club and 16 seasons in the business is nothing to sneeze at. It's a nice hoops résumé. Even so, Jackson has his skeptics over his Hall of Fame prospects.
"As much as I admire his longevity and his skill as a set-up man, to me, his overall game never made him a perennial All-Star," one former member of the Hall of Fame voting committee said. "That being the case, I don't think he is deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame."
The other four of the five topping the career assist list possess a lot of All-Star appearances.
Stockton has been named an All-Star 10 times. Magic played in 13 All-Star games, and Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas both played in 12. Stockton will be in the Hall of Fame, and Magic, the Big O and Zeke are already members.
Jackson doesn't think his lack of All-Star appearances should be held against him.
"I don't think that's valid," Jackson said. "These days, it's really a popularity contest. I've had situations where I led the league in assists and didn't make the All-Star team. I've had situations where my team was the best in the conference and I didn't make the All-Star team over say a guy like Penny Hardaway, who didn't play the first half of the season. I really don't think it's fair to hold those things against me. The bottom line is I've had longevity and I've won everywhere I have gone."
Stockton's career scoring average is 13.1 points per game, Magic's was 19.5, Robertson's was 25.7 and Thomas' was 19.2. Jackson now sits at 9.9 points per game.
Stockton has played his entire career with the Jazz, Magic played his with the Lakers, Robertson played for just two teams in Cincinnati and Milwaukee and Thomas played only for Detroit. Jackson has played for New York, the Clippers, Indiana, Denver, Indiana again, Toronto, New York again and Denver again via trade before a buyout enabled him to join Utah.
I am a student of the game and I'm well aware of what the Hall of Fame means and the people that are in there. One day, to have the opportunity to join them would be incredible. ”
— Mark Jackson
"Is there anyone in the Hall of Fame that has been traded six times?" the former Hall of Fame voter asked.
Malone has heard all the knocks against Jackson. But to him, 10,000 assists is 10,000 assists.
"Everywhere he has gone, he has won and made someone better on his team," Malone said. "I don't think (the lack of All-Star appearances) matters. He has 10,000 assists. He's a true point guard."
Nuggets center Marcus Camby, who played with Jackson in New York, said: "I'd love for Mark to get into Springfield. First ballot, I don't know. They are probably going to look at his scoring. But over 10,000 assists is a lot of assists."
Jackson won't be eligible to be a Hall of Fame candidate until five seasons after he retires. As far as his playing days are concerned, Jackson says he is taking it year by year and still has basketball in his blood.
Jackson should receive strong consideration for the Hall. While he may not be a perennial All-Star or have led the league in scoring, a lot can be said about a plateau only Stockton and Magic have surpassed. And the New Yorker is hopeful that others will also believe he is deserving to be in Springfield, Mass., with all the other basketball greats.
"I don't even know how to describe it because I am a student of the game and I'm well aware of what the Hall of Fame means and the people that are in there," Jackson said. "One day, to have the opportunity to join them would be incredible."
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Has Jackson earned a pass to the Hall?