Stephen Jackson Interview on “Highly Questionable”

13 Jun

Yesterday on Dan LeBatard’s ESPN show, “Highly Questionable”, Stephen Jackson was one of the guests interviewed. The interview was remarkable for a few reasons, the first of which was that it was a legitimate interview that occurred on this particular show. Le Batard hosts the show with Papi (his father), and Bomani Jones (a more recent addition), and it is generally a light-hearted and almost nonsensical show.

However, during this interview they actually got started asking some serious, and somewhat personal questions, and never veered too far from that. The other remarkable piece of this interview was just exactly how honest Jackson was during the interview. This included everything from his very rough childhood, to him not being sorry about punching out a fan in Detroit (except for the fine money), to his commitment to loyalty for his friends. He should probably not have been quite so honest and open in his disclosure (for his own good!), but it really did highlight some of the struggles that he faced growing up.

Check out the interview:

I took away a few things from the interview. The first thing is that I actually liked Stephen Jackson. As a Pacer fan, I never really liked Jackson, even before the Malice in the Palace incident.  I saw the talent but didn’t like him.  After his interview, I really got a sense of some of the things that this guy has been through and overcome to get where he is today, and I came away incredibly impressed with him.

But unfortunately, there was a bigger take home point from the interview: the amount of things that many of these athletes have to overcome and get through in order to make it to where they are.  Jackson’s interview was a reminder of that, and sadly, one that we gloss over or choose to ignore.  A large percentage of athletes (NBA in particular) come from very poor economic backgrounds and didn’t have much to lean on outside of sports.  The schools around them are broken and ignored, housing projects are the mode of living, there is violence everywhere (he recounts how much death he has had to see, including his older brother at age 16), and just about everything else wrong that one may imagine (he also mentions barely surviving a drive-by shooting where he and his friends were fired at over 40 times).


When you consider all of the chaos and destruction around him, it is amazing that Stephen Jackson came out of it as well as he did.  In his interview he was personable, upbeat, and articulate.  It’s a great thing that sports were available to him as a way out.  But it is very unfortunate that for many in these situations, sports is *the only* way out.  Because unfortunately, the odds are against the Stephen Jacksons within these disadvantaged areas; he was the great exception to the rule.

For most, the odds are on jail, or not making it all.  Hopefully his story can help shed some light on these kinds of situations that are all too common, and that unfortunately, most don’t make it through as well as Jackson did.


Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Media/Movies/TV, sociology, Sports


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Stephen Jackson Interview on “Highly Questionable”

  1. Jeff

    June 14, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    There’s a racial narrative here. You’re not saying it, but I think you should be. It’s really easy to collapse race and class, but this is probably an instance (perhaps evident in your personal reaction to Jackson) where it’s important to to understand the intersections. The “way out” narratives are most prevalent amongst poor black men (gender works here too), where sports and entertainment “save” one from crime, premature death, and/or imprisonment. This isn’t all race. But it certainly isn’t class as you describe it. It’s probably better to understand Jackson when thinking about how these things interact. Historical stereotypes of the angry black man/brut are most likely shaping public opinion. I can only imagine what would have been said on Twitter during that brawl.

    “When you consider all of the chaos and destruction around him, it is amazing that Stephen Jackson came out of it as well as he did. In his interview he was personable, upbeat, and articulate. It’s a great thing that sports were available to him as a way out.”

    As a colleague, this was really tough for me to read. I think you are trying to highlight the exceptionalism of Jackson’s case, but it’s so watered-down that it comes across as saying “Thank God for professional sports,” rather than commenting on these “unfortunate situations” (also with a tinge of the problematic of calling a black man “articulate”). Perhaps that was the intention. But, then, it’s just reinforcing the exception as the rule.


    • trokspot

      June 14, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      This is definitely the “watered-down, quick version” reaction to the video and situation.

      The race and class issue is highly overlapped and there is definitely a narrative here. You’re absolutely right. I wasn’t intentionally ignoring it, but you’re right in that I didn’t specifically calling it out. This is especially true in the NBA (an 80%+ league of African Americans). In fact, as you wrote this and I looked back, I was a little surprised at myself that I did downplay it (again, maybe more as a “quick version” unintended?)….if you look at the way that I teach my soc of sport class, I spend 2 full weeks+ on race and very little on only class. (Largely I talk about class via the “American Dream” as seen through sport, which I give a slight nod to in this short piece, and even then usually a lot of intersection with race…)

      I think that maybe adding this quote by Barkley would have helped this piece out and definitely would have eased some of your concerns (many of which are legitimate):
      Charles Barkley: “Sports are a detriment to blacks…not a positive. You have a society now where every black kid in the country thinks the only way he can be successful is through athletics. People look at athletes and entertainers as the sum total of black America. That is a terrible, terrible, thing because that ain’t even one-tenth of what we are.”

      I bring up that quote all of the time in my courses, and it often kind of blows people away because they often don’t think about that (surprise…). I also highlight the actual percentages of people who “make it” via sport (tiny tiny tiny: )

      So sport is helpful and useful for a few (a very very few…i.e. Stephen Jackson), but if we stop there and pretend that all is well and fair because of sports, then that’s definitely and shortsighted (as we both know).

      I think that maybe I have talked about this stuff and read about it to the extent that in this case, I sort of took for granted and swept aside some things in order to focus on this one specific instance. And it was a “quick post” that was certainly watered down. Again, to start from the beginning and give this entire post its proper context would take a much larger space than this specific post (indeed plenty of books have been written on this, and I take a full 2 weeks of class and lectures to attempt it and could spend entire semesters).


      • Andy

        July 9, 2013 at 10:50 PM

        I can’t speak to all of that, but I will agree with Trok that I know have a much higher opinion of Stephen Jackson than I did before watching that interview. It figures that Highly Questionable would start to get good now that I don’t have a TV anymore.


  2. Andy

    July 9, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    By the way, the end of the interview makes me think that Stephen would NOT be among those in the league that would be comfortable playing with an openly gay teammate.


    • trokspot

      July 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      Haha… I think you’re right. When asked about the craziest/weirdest thing he’s ever seen, his response about the crazy European guys snapping each other with towels was pretty funny to me. I think you could tell that he was sincere though – definitely something that he found truly uncomfortable and bizarre (supporting your hypothesis).

      Interesting dude though.



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