Ex-King Jackson always finds action

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Bobby Jackson does not have many opportunities to play basketball these days. His wife, five children and a front-office job with the Sacramento Kings keep him on the run most of the time. Jackson had a few spare minutes last Saturday, so he played in the 53rd annual Dimes Classic at Rocklin High School. The 12-team event featured former professional and college players. His time away from basketball was evident as Jackson huffed and puffed his way through the game. After playing 12 seasons in the NBA, including six with the Kings, he had nothing to prove. “I’m not trying to show off,” Jackson said after his Slow Motion team’s loss to Gold Rush. “I love playing basketball, but I don’t get a chance to play much. I’m just looking for a little conditioning.” Slow Motion’s run-and-gun style did not suit Jackson, who shook his head in disapproval on more than one occasion as he watched his teammates fire away with no semblance of a strategy. “Every guy has an agenda,” Jackson said. “They want to get to the basket or shoot the basketball.” Jackson could have done the same, but the 38-year-old was content to take a back seat as he often did during his seasons of playing alongside Chris Webber and Mike Bibby with the Kings. Providing a spark off the bench became a specialty for Jackson, who was voted the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in the 2002-2003 season. His NBA career came to an end after the 2008-09 season, when Jackson returned to the Kings after splitting the 2007-08 season between the New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets. “It was not meant for me to play anymore. I was at peace with my decision,” he said. “I had a great career.” Retirement did not mean Jackson was finished with basketball. The Kings hired him as a scout and ambassador. Jackson has spent the past two years learning the business side of basketball. Business for the Kings in Sacramento is hardly booming, however. With no prospects for a new arena in the capital city, the Kings are on the verge of packing their bags and moving to Anaheim. As much as Jackson empathizes with Sacramento fans, he understands the bottom line in the NBA is the almighty dollar. The Kings will make far more money by playing in Southern California. “The (Los Angeles) Lakers just signed a TV deal for $3.1 billion over 20 years,” Jackson said. “The same deal here (for the Kings) would be $100 million. I understand why they’re doing it.” There is also the issue with Arco Arena, which is now called Power Balance Pavilion. By any name, Jackson said, the arena is by far the worst in the NBA and has been since his days with the Kings. “This city needs a new arena,” he said. Jackson will never forget his nights of playing in front of sellout crowds at Arco Arena. His fondest memories of his six seasons with the Kings are of the thunderous noise created by faithful fans. “It was the best experience. The support we got was great. The fans supported us every night,” he said. “I feel for the city. (The fans) really need the Kings. That’s all they’ve ever known.” The move to Anaheim could cause a conflict for Jackson, who is also a youth basketball coach. After Slow Motion’s loss Saturday, Jackson hustled to Hardwood Palace to coach his nephew’s team. Sherron Bradford and his Spirit Got Game teammates did not fare much better than Slow Motion. Jackson’s squad lost by 19 points, and the players got an earful from their coach after the game. Jackson donates his time to be the coach and expects his players to also make sacrifices. Although he made millions of dollars as an NBA player, he is not going to buy any excuses by his players. “We practice three times a week, but everybody shows up just once week,” he said. “I’m real blunt about it. You can’t go out and play without some kind of organization. I don’t have to be here.” His players have the advantage of having a former NBA player as their coach. Jackson will gladly coach for free if his players will pay the price by making a commitment to the team. That sounds like a basketball bargain.