It never helps that the NBA trade deadline causes such a commotion, it can take days to recover and piece together what actually went down. Eventually, once the spectacle is over and some kind of normality is restored, you come back round to remembering that these are human beings having their lives changed in the space of just a few hours.
As human beings go, Reggie really was one of the good guys. I was reminded recently of his emotional exit interview after the Clippers reached the Western Conference finals in 2021, and it’s hard to describe how much that moment touched me, but to start it’s worth revisiting his start to life with the franchise.
Jackson arrived from the Detroit Pistons where he had been able to prove he was a solid NBA player after a turbulent end to his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he had overseen his new team become a losing one. After organizing a buyout in Michigan, the Clippers were one of the contenders vying for his signature, though the man himself had other ideas. An injury-plagued few years had taken their toll, physically and mentally, and the idea of retiring to an easy life didn’t seem such a leap.
It’s at that point Paul George reached out and the two confided in each other about their battles with mental health, and a bromance was sparked. The then-29-year-old agreed to join up with his friend and the rest should have been history. Except it wasn’t. The pandemic took hold, the Clippers had their bubble nightmares and Jackson flattered to deceive in the playoffs. Perhaps retirement was a missed opportunity?
The arrival of new head coach Tyronn Lue brought a new vibe to the locker room, one where the entire roster felt more empowered and heard, and Reggie was one of the biggest beneficiaries from that. Not only did his play improve as he became a crucial part of the rotation as the starting point guard, but he also became the team’s vibes guy – a role that he would fulfill until his final day at the arena formerly known as the STAPLES Center.
His positive manner, celebrating and uplifting his teammates, being generous with his time among the press pack and taking time to show appreciation to the supporters, firmly made him a Clipper Nation favorite. Chants of “Reggie” would tumble down from the nosebleeds to the floor seats, as he danced and celebrated in ways which became his hallmarks. The mismatched sneakers, the braids with the twists, and the goggles became the trademarked look.
Forever grateful for the 2021 run man! Forever cemented with LAC. Much love always to reggie jackson. pic.twitter.com/MbO1YAiI5b— Jamal Cristopher (@JamCristopher) February 9, 2023
Soon we’ll be seeing those same quirks we came to know and love as part of the Denver Nuggets. Though that thought stings, he goes with the best wishes of the vast majority of fans and most are happy that he’ll be landing in a situation that is tailor-made to get the best out of his skills.
In that 2021 exit interview, Reggie thanked his Clippers teammates and the organization as a whole for “saving him”. Well, this is a thanks to you, Reggie. Because, in a way, you saved us. We’ve gone from being statistically the worst franchise in NBA history to being a team that players around the league want to be a part of, and that is in big part down to the vibes that you brought to the arena night after night.
You made it a joy to watch this team, but more importantly you made it cool to enjoy basketball. We’re glad to have been a part of you falling back in love with the game, because we fell in love too.
You’re a Denver Nugget now, but you’ll forever be a Clipper legend.