Reggie Jackson Gambled On Himself. And Lost. Was Saved. And Won.

When a max player negotiates a buyout only two things are at play. He was overpaid, can’t deliver, and wants out. Or, he put out so much blood, sweat, and tears he has nothing left to give an organization that isn’t built to win while his prime years are fading away. Reggie Jackson was a little bit of both. The overpaid player who couldn’t live up to the zeroes on his paycheck and was equally exhausted by the failed expectations.

A decent guard, Reggie Jackson left a good thing in OKC who drafted him in the 2011 draft with the number 24 pick. Early in his career, Jackson overvalued his abilities. He was desperate to escape the Russell Westbrook shadow and run his own team. Except, his skill set didn’t allow that kind of trust. And he found a way to get injured. A lot. And so his max deal turned into buyer’s remorse.

Detroit had been trying to trade Jackson for two years but no one was biting and for good reason. When he wasn’t injured, Jackson was not making players better. And that contract made everyone nervous.

Jackson as a free agent after being waived by the Pistons chose the Clippers which made sense if you want to win. But Jackson was average in the bubble playoffs. He played in 12 out of 13 games and in 7 of those games he didn’t score. In the ill-fated series against Denver, Jackson didn’t get a lot of minutes. Still, the Clippers were a better situation for him than Detroit, a city where he spent too much time trying to prove himself (and failing).

After he was waived, Reggie Jackson thanked Detroit for the five years and credited the city for developing him into a man. Detroit was supposed to be his bellwether. Jackson turning the page. It was a new start until it wasn’t. While he played 79 games his first year with the Pistons, he only played a full slate of 82 games once over the next four seasons. Injuries kept him on the bench for three seasons. When he was healthy and in games, his shooting was inconsistent and you didn’t know what you were going to get. Before he was waived, more injuries, and he was shooting 38%.

When he beat back his “basketball depression” and came to the Clippers, Landry Shamet was his competition. Shamet a 41% three-point shooter was clutch down the stretch.  In the 4th quarter, Shamet was making 49% of his shots and 47% of his threes. Jackson, a nine-year vet in 2020, had to fight for his minutes. An emotional man, overly sensitive at times, he was always trying to prove something on the court.

In the 2021 playoffs, Jackson had the best run of his career.  His clutch shot-making particularly his three-point game was desperately needed, and often he led the charge back as the Clippers consistently put themselves in a hole. The Clippers fed off the emotional Jackson who shut up all of the critics, the ones who said his ego was always getting in the way, Instead of trying to be better than Rusell Westbrook, Jackson focused on being a better version of Reggie Jackson.

For the most part, the Clippers have low-key players but Jackson wears his emotions on his sleeve. The Clippers playoff identity revolved around Jackson and it worked. Until it didn’t. At the end, Jackson was his ordinary heart-on-sleeve self, tears in his eyes, voice trembling as he tried to put into words what happened to him in 39 days.

18 points per game. 41% 3-point shots. Clutch in the moment.

“I appreciate every guy in that locker room. I appreciate Paul [George] for getting on that phone last year, at the end of the season. I’m thankful for everything I’ve experienced being here- this city making me feel at home, this organization welcoming me, my quirks, my strengths, my weaknesses. I’m not here today without this team.”

Jackson’s up and down career isn’t some bad luck odyssey. It is too familiar. Many players get a big contract then injuries. Then fan unhappiness. And coaching not working. Bad style of play. You need saviors then, friends, someone to give you that last shot.

Ty Lue was a godsend for Jackson. Lue grew up in gritty Oklahoma, coached LeBron, won a title down 1-3, was friends with Kobe and Shaq, had been underestimated, and disproved a negative. He gave Jackson confidence and he gave Jackson no excuses. Be you. Play the game. Let the results be the results.

Jackson is a free agent and if he stays with the Clippers he won’t get Detroit money but a raise is coming. I heard someone say during the Olympic trials “never give up the dream. Never.”

It wasn’t Reggie Jackson who said that. But it could have been.