On ESPN’s The Jump before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Stephen Jackson was asked about the thing he does best, trash talk.
Jackson: “We as players, we can smell the blood, we can see when you weak. And if you’re one of their best players and you can’t take that? Im’a light you up.”
Then Rachel Nicols asks if Jackson can tell the difference between a player who’s skin he can get under and a player he cannot.
Jackson: “For example, [Dirk Nowitzki] is one of the best ever, but Game 1 we knew we had him.”
Ramona Shelburne: “Really?”
Tracy McGrady: “What?”
Jackson: “We saw it in his eyes, I saw it in his eyes.”
T-Mac: “You’re talking about a man that has 30,000 points.”
Jackson: “One thing about it, I never blocked a 7-footer’s shot against the backboard after he shot it. I did that to Dirk in the game, when I saw his face I knew we had him.”
Shelbourne: “Seriously? That was the game with the 8 vs the 1?”
Jackson: “And if you want your heart back Dirk and your game back, I can give it back to you ‘cause I still got it in my pocket.”
It’s one thing to bring up the 2007 Playoffs1, but to say that 10 years later after Dirk had gone on to win a title is ridiculous. If the NBA Media Culture is going to be all about Championships2 then shouldn’t a title release players from past failure? Stephen Jackson won a title riding Tim Duncan’s coattails in 2003, but only made it to the playoffs twice after that 2007 series. In 2010 Jackson and the Bobcats were swept by Dwight Howard’s Magic and then his Spurs lost in the Western Conference Finals in 2012 to the Thunder, but Jackson was a 6th man in San Antonio at that point. Individually “Captain Jack” went on to never make an All-Star Team, All-NBA Team, or win anything in the NBA except 1 Player of the Week Award.3
After 2007 Dirk went on to be named to 7 more All-Star teams, 5 more All-NBA teams, reach 30,000 points, 9 Player of the Week Awards, and most importantly win the 2011 NBA Title and be named Finals MVP. I think it’s fair to say Dirk’s game never left.