Joell Ortiz Interviews Mark Jackson “Player’s Ball” [Outtakes From October/November In-Book Story]

XXL: When’s the last time you’ve been back to Brooklyn?

Mark Jackson: I haven’t been back in a minute.

Looking forward to playing the Nets in Brooklyn?

I could never imagine an NBA team in Brooklyn, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun

Who was your favorite player growing up?

Growing up, I wore No. 15 because my favorite player was Earl “The Pearl” Monroe—an incredible basketball player. The way I played with my back to the basket and making those spin moves was because of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. From there, as I got older it was Magic Johnson—the best point guard to ever play the game, an incredible passer and a great leader. So, those were the two guys who really had the biggest impact on the game as a youngster.

You coaching now, bro. Do you approach coaching with that same point guard mentality?

The great point guards play every position and know where everybody should be. The great point guards know where everybody should be, they know where the ball should go, they know when somebody is rolling, they know when somebody is struggling, when you should get somebody the rock and when you should stay away from somebody. So, to me, a real point guard is really an extension of the coach on the floor. So, to me, it wasn’t that much of a jump. I always thought of the game as a player and being a guy who wasn’t as athletically-gifted as other players—I couldn’t jump as high or run as fast—I had to think the game. I always approached the game from a coach’s mentality. Ultimately, it’s about being a leader and getting everybody to do what you need them to do to win. Whether I’m playing the game or coaching the game, the mentality remains the same.

The Warriors, bro! Looks to be an exciting season ahead. How are you feeling?

I’m excited about the year. We certainly upgraded. We got guys who love the game and are determined to have a great year. I think ultimately with us, it’s gonna come down to health. Stephen Curry is looking good. Andrew Bogut is on pace to be fine, physically. If we’re healthy, we’re going to be very good and excited about what lies ahead.

Who was that one player that you had to go against who you were like, ‘Uh oh’?

There really wasn’t one guy and that’s because I played in the era where there were so many great point guards. On any given night, you were facing a guy who could give you the business and you knew it. You couldn’t come to a game, thinking you could go through the motions because you’d be embarrassed. To me, playing against Magic…he had the ability to embarrass you in a number of ways, whether scoring, passing or just putting guys in position and being effective. You look at, to me, the guy who’s the second best point guard in the history of the game and that’s Isiah Thomas. He had the ability to lead, score, and he had that toughness. You talk about Rod Strickland, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, John Stockton…it was night in and night out with just incredible players who had the ability to embarrass you if you didn’t come right. In our era, there were so many great ones.