For whatever NBA team he played Mark Jackson’s job was to distribute the rock to his open teammates. But 6’1” point guard could also score on any given occasion – he could knock down a jumper or drive to the hoop!
Back in 1987-88 the Knicks rookie coach Rick Pitino showed a great deal of confidence to his rookie court general, a local kid fresh from the local University of Saint John’s, who was selected with the 18th pick (!) of 1987 NBA draft.
Knicks fans in the stands of the Madison Square Garden were excited to see the local kid handling the point guard position and pulling the strings of an improving team led by superstar center Patrick Ewing.
Jackson was just perfect choice for an up-tempo type of play Pitino implemented as the Knicks’ style for 1987-88. He was all over the floor doing whatever his coach asked for and his team needed from him. Knicks young backcourt listened to every word of advice from the young and energizing head coach.
In the late 1980s, the player who offensively took maximum advantage of Ewing’s presence in the middle was definitely the point guard Mark Jackson. Leading the charge for the improving team from Big Apple he cemented his position as the team’s starting point guard and one of the League’s rising stars.
Jax would cruise to 1987-88 NBA Rookie of the Year award leading the class which included fellow New Yorker Kenny Smith and forwards Derrick McKey, Armen Gilliam and Greg Anderson.
One of Jackson’s most memorable games of his second pro season (1988-89) came in Philly, on November 18th, 1988, when he scored career-high 34 points on 14-19 shooting, together with 9 assists.
That night, 76ers team defense was totally focused on Ewing what gave Jackson a great share of open looks at the basket, either for an easy lay-up or wide open three-pointer. 76ers point guards, defensive specialist Maurice Cheeks, and rookie Scott Brooks were helpless and they could just watch while Jackson was scoring at will.
For the season he averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 assists, 4.7 boards and 1.9 steals per game for the rising Knicks, which were eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals by the Chicago Bulls (2-4).
Eight seasons later, in 1997-98, in his only season with the run & gun Denver Nuggets, Jax led the League in the assists with an average of 11.4 dimes per game! All together Mark Jackson played in 17 NBA season and combined the totals of 1296 games, 10334 assists (avg. 8.0apg) and 12489 points (avg. 9.6ppg).
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor and the co-author of the Amazon.com TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ (‘Drazen – Godine Zmaja’) which reveals the yet untold details from the life and career of the legendary NBA shooting guard Drazen Petrovic. He resides in Zagreb, Croatia, currently working on his third book which tells the untold story of the 1989 Green Card Five.