Studyin' at the Old School: Chris Jackson/Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Young Shaq, LSU basketball
The smoothest shooter I remember was one of my favorite basketball players - pro or college - during the late '80s/1990s. Chris Jackson, a 6-1, 160 lb. guard from Mississippi, arrived at LSU and immediately torched defenses his freshman year when he averaged 30.2 points a game!
Man, was he silky...sprint down court, plant, crossover dribble between the legs, leave his defender grasping while he ripped cord from anywhere on the floor. The guy was incredible. And then consider he teamed with Shaquille O'Neal and Stanley Roberts (The Twin Towers) for a year. Talk about a powerhouse of talent in Baton Rouge. They had monumental regular season matchups against UNLV and Loyola Marymount in the 1989-90 campaign. That Loyola Marymount game, by the way, was one of Hank Gathers' last before his untimely death on the court a few weeks later from a heart condition.
Jackson left for the NBA after his sophomore season and was the #3 pick of the Denver Nuggets. People are awed by what Steph Curry does, and rightfully so, but Abdul-Rauf was doing it earlier.
His conversion to Islam led to his name change in the 1990s, and ultimately his being blackballed by the NBA. Abdul-Rauf didn't stand at attention during the national anthem, and the league suspended him in 1996.
I didn't completely understand the uproar then, even less so now. How many times have I stood for the national anthem distracted and my mind wandering? I might as well have been sitting because I was simply putting on a show, keeping up appearances like the Pharisees in the street. Praying to God during the national anthem, as Abdul-Rauf did, instead of looking at the flag seemed like a good use of the moment, considering his beliefs. Still does.
But NBA executives disagreed and deemed Abdul-Rauf unemployable by the time he was 29 years old.
There's such a ridiculous wealth of footage showing Jackson in college battling the biggest names/teams of the day I don't know where to start. Here are just a couple.
Battling UTEP's Tim Hardaway in the 1989 NCAA Tournament
The iconic game against Loyola Marymount with Jackson, Shaq, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers all playing
Torching Texas (featuring Travis Mays and Lance Blanks) for 51 points in 1990
And then you talk about the NBA games...
Putting on a show against one of my favorite all-time guards, Jason Kidd
Posting 32 points, 9 assists in a win against the juggernaut Chicago Bulls team of '95-'96 that finished the regular season 72-10.
Talk about things I could binge watch...Chris Jackson in his one glorious season teamed with Shaq at LSU, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf tearing up the 1990s NBA scene.