After 14 years in the NBA, Stephen Jackson has gone from the hardwood to a role as a basketball analyst on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols. Jackson is a frequent guest on the show along with other former NBA players, Tracy McGrady and Chauncey Billups, along with some of ESPN’s best and brightest like Ramona Shelburne, Zach Lowe, and Brian Windhorst.
With The Jump now moving forward with no summer hiatus on ESPN at 12 p.m. PT on weekdays, Jackson agreed to an interview with Lakers Nation to discuss the show as well as many other topics. Jackson opened up about his desire to coach in the NBA, Ice Cube’s BIG3 League, Magic Johnson’s impact on the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Paul George, and much more.
Ryan Ward: ESPN’s The Jump is now going year-round?
Stephen Jackson: “Yeah. I’m excited about it. We’ve been doing pretty good on the show, and everybody has been working real hard, man. I always give Rachel [Nichols] a shout out for letting me be apart of something new. It’s been great to now know that we’re going year-round and we’re going to be on ESPN full-time, it shows we’re doing something good.”
Have you enjoyed have a platform where players can talk about the league?
SJ: “Yeah, because it’s just like when you go to school. You get taught by professors. People who know math, who know history, who study that stuff. When you get a chance to talk basketball, why not hear it from people who are professors of basketball?
“That’s what I know, and one thing about it, I never claimed to be the smartest guy, but basketball, I am a genius in basketball. So, to be able to hear from guys that actually played the game, who have been through those wars, who knows what it feels like to be the best, be a champion. People understand, and they respected that, and I’m not the type of guy to go on shows or do interviews and say the politically correct thing, that has never been my style. I speak candidly about things and give my honest opinion, and people respect that.”
How often will you be on The Jump?
SJ: “Normally, I’m on the show two or three days a week, so probably about nine times a month.”
Would you like to have a full-time basketball analyst role in the future?
SJ: “I would love to. I don’t think that I could be a sideline analyst or something like that, but as far as having a show like I’m on now talking about basketball, I could do that full-time.
“I definitely plan on coaching. Soon. Real soon. Being a coach in the NBA, that’s my real passion. Being able to talk about basketball like the platform I have now on The Jump and really being able to dig into things to get my point across. I would love to do that. I could do that forever.”
So you want to be a head coach in the NBA or join a coaching staff?
SJ: “Definitely a head coach. I eventually want to be a head coach. Whatever steps I have to take to get to that point if I just pop in as a head coach that would be great because of my passion for the game.
“I played for the best coaches ever. I played for Larry Brown. I played for Gregg Popovich. I played for Don Nelson. I played for Rick Carlisle. I played for great coaches, so I learned so much over the years. That’s one reason why every team I’ve been on I made a difference from Charlotte to Indiana to Golden State to San Antonio, I’ve made a difference. I just know the game, and my passion is always going to be basketball. Coaching is the next thing for me.”
You joined recently joined Ice Cube’s BIG3 League with another The Jump regular Chauncey Billups along with Charles Oakley as your player/coach. Is Oakley going to play?
SJ: “I don’t think Oak is going to play. We have five guys. I don’t think Oak is going to play, but he has knowledge for the game, and he sees things during the course of the game. We played a scrimmage recently. He sees things. He knows the game well, too. To have another NBA mind, another guy that loves to compete, guiding us in the right direction is good for us.”
How did the BIG3 League draft go for your team the Killer 3’s?
SJ: “I think we had the best draft. Between us and Al Harrington’s team (Trilogy). The other team that had a pretty good draft was DerMarr Johnson’s team (3’s Company). We were able to draft Larry Hughes, Reggie Evans, and Brian Cook. All guys with NBA experience. All guys that know how to play the game and most of those guys are in great shape. We’re excited about what we have.”
What sparked your interest in joining the BIG3 League?
SJ: “I love to compete. I love to play basketball. I workout every day. I’m in great shape. Thank God I didn’t have any serious injuries. No knee injuries. No surgeries my whole career, so I’m basically healthy. The worst injury I had was a broken pinky. My body is great. I played a lot of minutes in my career and was able to stay healthy. My body feels great. I play in leagues all the time, I workout every night.
“When I get a chance to compete and still be able to play this game at a high level, why not do it? And getting paid for it is great. Then, you’re playing for a guy starting the league that loves the game like we love the game, Ice Cube. We all respect Ice Cube and what he’s done, and are fans of Ice Cube. When we had a chance to talk to him and understand his passion and where he wanted to go with the league, and also brought in Roger Mason Jr. to help run it, it was a no-brainer for us.”
Who are you looking forward to facing the most in the BIG3 League? Any trash-talking going back and forth?
SJ: “There’s definitely going to be trash-talking because it’s three-on-three, so it’s going to be hard to stop guys. Court is so big. It’s three-on-three.
“I feel like Kenyon Martin’s team. Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington have a team together. I’m looking forward to playing them, and I’m looking forward to playing Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette’s team as well.”
Some BIG3 League games are going to be played at the Staples Center, correct?
SJ: “I think so. I think one game is at the Staples Center. The first game is June 25 at Barclays in Brooklyn.”
So how does that work? Does the entire BIG3 League come to one arena and play back-to-backs?
SJ: “Every city, every team plays. Eight teams, so it’ll be four games in each city.”
As for Los Angeles, what do you think about Magic Johnson taking over as the Lakers president of basketball operations?
SJ: “It’s what the Lakers needed. Why not have a guy who has been on that court and bled for that organization who has won championships for that organization. Super successful in business that understands both sides of it. Why not have him involved? You can’t find a better guy.”
Does Magic’s presence in the front office make the Lakers a more attraction destination for free agents and stars around the league?
SJ: “Yes, definitely. Because guys respect Magic. Like I said, they respect him as a man and everything he’s done and definitely as a basketball player. One of the best ever. That’s definitely attractive to guys. Guys are going to respect where he’s going and his movements and letting people know he got Kobe [Bryant] involved. That’s even more deadly.”
What was it like facing Kobe Bryant during your career?
SJ: “I loved it, because I knew how hard I love to compete, that I got to take it to the highest level when I played against him, and I loved it. I knew Kobe was better. He knew he was better … We both knew he was the best player, but the way I competed and the way I played against him every time, even if he scored 30 points or I scored 30 points, he knew I was out there to play the game I loved the right way, and that’s the respect we always had.”
You were a former teammate of Metta World Peace — or Ron Artest back then — what do you think about how he was able to turn around his career and play as long as he has?
SJ: “Ron is one of those guys, too. We’re just built different. We just love the game. We take care of our bodies. We can play all year round. We just have certain things in us that you can’t teach, you have to be born with it and it, is kind of hard to explain.”
Will you try to recruit World Peace over to the BIG3 League?
SJ: “If Ron comes to the BIG3 that’ll be great because that will make the competition level better and he’s going to really shine in the BIG3.”
Metta, like yourself, wants to go into coaching as well. Do you think he has what it takes to be a coach?
SJ: “If I ever had a chance to get a head coaching job I would definitely bring Ron on as an assistant coach.”
There’s been a lot of rumors floating around about Paul George wanting to come to the Lakers. Do you think the Lakers should try to trade for him or wait until he hits free agency?
SJ: “Either way, if they can get Paul George that would be good for them. Probably one of the best players in the league. Whether it’s a trade or free agency if you can get him that’s a great move for your organization.”
Jimmy Butler has also been rumored to be available via trade. Which player is the better fit for the Lakers: Butler or Paul George?
SJ: “I can’t really say because I’m a Jimmy Butler fan as well. They both bring a lot to your team. I don’t know. That’s a hard decision. I think either way you go you can’t lose.”
We’re going to finish up with a few rapid-fire questions:
SJ: “Favorite teammate would be Al Harrington.”
Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan?
Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson?
SJ: “Gregg Popovich. I hate Phil Jackson with a passion. Quote, I hate Phil Jackson!”
Which team is going to win it all this year?
SJ: “I can’t say one team, but I would have to lean towards whoever comes out of the West.”
Best player in the BIG3 League?