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Good Fit for the Kings A team on the soft side relies on hard-nosed backup Bobby Jackson

March 11, 2002
March 11, 2002

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March 11, 2002

Pro Basketball

Good Fit for the Kings A team on the soft side relies on hard-nosed backup Bobby Jackson

With the hands of a London pickpocket and the single-mindedness
of a cheetah chasing a meal, Bobby Jackson loves to turn up the
heat on the man he's guarding. He can usually get the
inexperienced ones to crack, but even veterans have been broken
by his relentless ball pressure. "I can tell when a guy is
scared," says Jackson, the Kings' backup point guard. "Seeing
that gives me a rush."

This is an article from the March 11, 2002 issue Original Layout

That aggressive attitude has gone a long way for Jackson, who's
listed at 6'1" but is closer to 5'10". Last season, while playing
behind the flamboyant but reckless Jason Williams, Jackson served
as a calming influence in Sacramento, often running the show in
the fourth quarter of tight games. This year, with Williams gone
and the steadier Mike Bibby starting, the 28-year-old Jackson is
free to create his own scoring opportunities. At week's end he
was averaging 10.7 points in a mere 21.6 minutes and had already
hit a career-high 58 threes. That, in addition to his all-out
defense, has helped the Kings to the league's best record and
placed Jackson on the short list of candidates for the Sixth Man
Award.

"Bobby's worked for everything he's got," says Rob Babcock, the
director of player personnel in Minnesota, where Jackson played
for two seasons. "He's really learned the league, and he fits
perfectly into the Kings' style of play." Adds Sacramento coach
Rick Adelman, "His tough defense can change the tempo of the
game."

Jackson's toughness has carried him through some hard times. He
blew out his right ACL as a freshman at Western Nebraska
Community College, broke a finger on his right hand as a rookie
with the Nuggets, in 1997-98, and has played for three teams in
his five NBA seasons. He's also had two years of his life
essentially erased. In 2000, after an investigation into the
Minnesota athletic department by the school found that numerous
papers were written for Jackson and some of his teammates by a
tutor, his accomplishments during his two seasons with the
Gophers--including being named both the Big Ten's player of the
year and its defensive player of the year in '97--were deleted
from the record books. Jackson blames no one but himself for
that. "I always did just what was needed to get by," he says. "I
can tell you, that's not the way to be."

Four years ago Jackson noticed that his nephew Chris, a
second-grader, was reading well below his grade level. Having
learned the hard way about the hazards of falling behind, Bobby
suggested to his twin sister, Barbara, who has three other kids,
that Chris come live with him. With the assistance of tutors and
Bobby's reading to him at night, 11-year-old Chris is up to grade
level. "I'm trying to teach him to put school ahead of sports,"
says Jackson, who has three children of his own (two of whom live
with their mother in Wheatland, Wyo.). "Why can't he be an A
student?"

Jackson has similarly high expectations for the Kings--if only
they would commit to playing defense the way he does. Despite his
backup status, he isn't afraid to chew out teammates when their
intensity isn't up to his standards. "For us to win a
championship, we have to learn to pick up the defense when it
really counts," says Jackson. "I don't think we're doing that
right now."

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES Always a rugged defender, Jackson has been a more aggressive scorer this year.