Jim Jackson played for teams far and wide during his lengthy career in the NBA, but something always stuck out about his one year with the Miami Heat.
He was 31 at the time, getting ready for the 10th season of his journeyman career in the league.
He still remembers playing under the detail-oriented Pat Riley, how meticulous he was every day and how he hated to lose above everything else.
And then there was the professionalism throughout the organization, from top to bottom.
“It was a great time in my life to experience that,” Jackson said. “All the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed. They took care of everything that needed to be taken care of so that we as players could come on the court and do our jobs.”
It has been 16 years since Jackson’s lone year with the Heat — and 12 since he suited up for an NBA team for the last time — and while he still comes to a few Heat games each year to meet up with Alonzo Mourning, he expects his return to AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night to be a little different.
On that night, Jackson will be back on the arena floor as part of the Big3 basketball league — but not as a player. Rather, he’s serving in his second year as Fox Sports’ color analyst for the traveling 3-on-3 halfcourt league loaded with former NBA talents.
The four-game slate is set to begin at 7 p.m. The first game will be live-streamed on the Big3’s Facebook page. The remaining three will be televised on Fox Sports 1 starting at 8 p.m. with a live stream available on FoxSportsGo.com or the FoxSports app.
“They better be ready for a show,” Jackson, 47, said. “With the way the league has been progressing based on our previous four weeks, the competition has been great. The atmosphere in the arenas have been electric.”
Jackson’s introduction to sports broadcasting came shortly after he retired from the NBA in 2006 when a broadcasting agent approached his agent about the possibility. Shortly afterward, his career off the court began on the Big Ten network before he moved over to Fox Sports as basketball analyst.
“It kind of started organically,” Jackson said, “but it also kind of started with someone asking if I’d be interested. I didn’t think about it as a career after my playing days. Sometimes you fall into a good situation.”
That good situation now has him calling games in Ice Cube’s Big 3 league that involve players he once called teammates during his NBA career that lasted 14 years and covered 12 teams. Among them are Dion Glover and DeMarr Johnson from his time with the Atlanta Hawks, as well as Bonzi Wells and Jermaine O’Neal from his time with the Portland TrailBlazers.
“Some of these guys were my rookies,” Jackson said. “... It’s great. I can talk a little trash about them while I’m doing the broadcast.”
But does watching his former teammates and adversaries playing right in front of Jackson make him want to get out there and play himself?
“No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Jackson said. “My game is gone. I gave up playing basketball 12 years ago. I know my limitations and I love watching them play so I can talk about them, but not me. I mean, you do miss the competition. You do miss competing at a high level and being on the court, but I’m realistic about where I’m at in my life. Being on the court is not one of them.”