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.