The NBA season isn't appearing over the horizon anytime soon. I have felt for a long time that there will be no games played in 2011-2012, and nothing has happened to make me feel differently. No matter what happens, we will have plenty of time to talk about basketball. So to add some lockout flavor to the blog, I thought I might try a series of snapshot looks at former NBA players I watched as a kid, but never realized their impact on the game and the league. I don't know if it is because I didn't understand the game as a kid, or else I just forgot, but I find myself being surprised to find out pieces of information about players I thought I knew, by reading old articles and stat archives.
For instance, did you know that Antoine "Big Dawg" Carr averaged 20 points a game with the Kings in 1991? I always thought of him as an offensive liability during the finals years, but in truth, he was arguably our second best bench scorer.
Did you know that Shandon Anderson enjoyed his best statistical season after leaving the Utah Jazz? Shandon Anderson is usually one of the first people that Jazz fans like to point out as a benefactor of the "Jazz system," but in his first year after the Jazz, Anderson averaged 12 pts, 5 rebounds and 3 assists a game on 47% fg shooting with the Rockets. Those are solid numbers.
Did you know that Adam Keefe was every bit as underwhelming as an NBA basketball player as you remember while watching him in the 90's? Well, he was.
So today, and every few days during the lockout, I would like to highlight a player's career that we may have forgotten the details of and talk about their place in NBA history as well as their place in a Utah Jazz context, starting with Mahmoud Abdul Rauf or the artist formerly known as Chris Wayne Jackson.
If you ask knowledgeable NBA fans about Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, my guess is most would remember him for things other than his basketball skills: the player who battled tourettes syndrome on the court; the guy who changed his name, converted to Islam and wouldn't stand during the national anthem, etc. But what most people forget, is that besides being blackballed from the NBA for his anti-American sentiments, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a fantastic basketball player.
Chris Jackson was Jimmer Fredette before Jimmer Fredette was even born. During his freshman year at Louisiana State, Jackson averaged 30.2 points a game while scoring more than 40 or 50 points a handful of times against SEC competition. Five games into his Freshman year, at the age of 19, Jackson dropped 53 points on rival Florida. As you can imagine, the myth of Chris Jackson rose quickly in the college ranks landing the 6 foot point guard on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February of 1989. The myth of Chris Jackson actually dates back to his high school days, when he got his varsity basketball team a day off, by sinking 283 free shots in a row, as told by these two stories that are worth a read.
After another stellar offensive year his sophomore year, Jackson was selected with the 3rd overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. Jackson's rookie year was a bit of a disappointment with stories of him being 30 pounds overweight and unmotivated, although 14 points and 3 assists a game landed him on the all rookie 2nd team.
Jazz fans may remember Abdul-Rauf's scoring ability because he dropped 51 points on 27 shots, shooting 9 for 14 from the 3, against the Jazz in the Salt Palace on December 7th, 1995. Seven times in his career Jackson shot 70% or better from the 3 point line in a game, when attempting 7 or more 3 pointers. And that is what I have learned about Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in my look back on his career: the guy is one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA. For his career, Abdul-Rauf averaged 44% fg shooting, 35% 3 point shooting and 90.5% from the line. Abdul-Rauf led the entire NBA in free throw shooting two different seasons, making 95% of his 229 attempts in '94. For reference sakes, Steve Nash has never shot better than 94% from the line for a season and his career average is one percentage point lower than Abdul-Rauf's.
For me, personally, I will never forget Abdul-Rauf's impact on one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history, when the Nuggets beat the #1 seeded Seattle Supersonics in a five game series in 1994. If you don't remember the series, you may remember Dikembe Mutombo grabbing the ball and falling on his back out of bounds crying, after David had slayed Goliath. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was on that team.
It's probably fair that Abdul-Rauf is best remembered for his disdain for the Star-Spangled Banner, the American Flag and what it stands for. That situation ended up defining his career, as it led to him being traded and eventually shadowed his early departure from the league in 2001. I can't side with his feelings for the country and his headstrong ideas that he was right, but if you take the time to read any interview about his feelings toward what America means to him, you might be able to understand where Abdul-Rauf is coming from. I think I understand. But I do feel bad that his stance helped end his NBA career prematurely. If you didn't know, Abdul-Rauf still plays professional basketball today in Japan. And even if it is sort of gimmicky, I still think watching him play and shoot the ball so well while suffering from Tourette's is one of the most interesting things I have ever witnessed on tv or live.