In 14 NBA seasons, Jimmy Jackson played for 12 teams. His movement mostly was more about other teams wanting him than teams not wanting him. After all that basketball, though, it was Traevon Jackson’s mom who introduced their son to the game.
It was not that Jimmy Jackson did not want his kid on the court. It was that he did not know Traevon existed until he was seven. By then, the boy’s mom, Tammy Winston, was practically mortified when she saw him play basketball.
“He was terrible when he first started,” Winston said to The New York Times. “He had no grace. He was just real physical and rough and clumsy.”
That could have been because he had been playing football. But the son met his father, developed a relationship, worked hard on his game, and is the point guard on No. 1-seed Wisconsin, which will vie for a Final Four spot tomorrow.
But it has not been an easy road. Winston, who played high school basketball, attempted to help her struggling son through pointers and verbal attacks.
“She’d always give me little pointers, especially at the free-throw line,” Jackson said. “She’d say, ‘You’re missing them because you aren’t bending your knees.’ I’d be like, ‘C’mon, Mom.’ ”
People would chant “Your dad was better” to the young man, almost breaking his spirit.
“The negativity would manifest itself to the point where honestly I didn’t even want to play,” Jackson said last year. “I questioned it a lot. I questioned it because I got to a point where I didn’t love the game anymore. I felt like it was more of a job.”
That was growing up. At Wisconsin last year, Jackson said he poorly handled some personal situations. “I had a lot of off-the-court stuff,” Jackson said to Fox Sports. “In my mind, I was a good guy. The typical good guy. I would do the right things. But I had a lot of flaws that personally I had to deal with. Whether it be going out, drinking or other things. It was a lot of stuff that I had that wasn’t good. It was my outlook. Instead of it being like a casual thing, it was my outlet thing.”
But Jackson seemingly has fought through and is one of the leaders of the team with the best chance to challenge Kentucky for the National Championship. His game is not like his dad’s. Traevon is more of a floor general who can hit the open shot. And he’s a lefty.
Jimmy Jackson was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the fourth pick of the NBA Draft six months before his son was born. He had been a versatile star at Ohio State, where he used size and skill to become one of the nation’s best players.
He learned about his son seven years after the draft, and they built a bond. The son joined the father on the road during school holidays and stayed with him in the summers. That passion for football faded to a love for basketball.
“I’d hear things like: ‘His father was so much better. He’s nothing,’ ” she said to The Times. “There was even a cheer in high school, ‘Your dad was better.’ I would hurt for him because he could never be just Traevon Jackson. He was Jim Jackson’s son.”
Traevon Jackson did not let the detractors win. He worked hard and then harder and earned his way to Wisconsin’s starting point guard spot. He broke his foot about six weeks ago and made his return in the Badgers’ 79-72 victory over North Carolina. He played only five minutes, but should be able to log more tomorrow.
Jackson said he was not concerned about recovering from his injury because he had overcome so much more. And he reverted to the spiritual upbringing his mom instilled in him.
“I honestly had a peace about me,” he said. “I’ve really just been able to surrender everything to God, trust in Him and His plan.”