LA Clippers re-signed Kawhi Leonard to a four-year, $176.3 million max deal. However, it would be remiss to ignore point guard Reggie Jackson’s re-signing after his breakout postseason. By signing both Leonard and Jackson to long-term deals, the Clippers have extended their championship window.
Reggie Jackson has agreed to a two-year $22 million deal to stay with the Clippers and his buddy, Paul George. This sizable contract is, in part, earned from his heightened level of play following Kawhi Leonard’s injury.
Is Reggie Jackson a superstar? Most readers would derisively laugh at this question. His regular season statistics are underwhelming. It seems as if Jackson wasn’t a likely candidate to shoulder this much of the offensive burden.
This postseason, Jackson was the third scoring option on the Clippers (second with Leonard’s injury), averaging 17.8 PPG on 48.4% from the field and 40.8% from three.
17.8 PPG isn’t a lot for a star, but these stats do a disservice to the impact that Jackson had on the Clippers. He shot an impressive 59.9% with effective Field Goal Percentage; a metric that’s very revealing about a player’s caliber of play.
Perusing the box score is no equivalent to watching the games. Basketball is meant to be enjoyed, not scrutinized and read about. Paul George scored 37 points in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz. But Reggie Jackson was the one who consummated George’s performance with timely clutch buckets to secure the victory.
“We dreamed of this. Many late nights. When I was a Pacer and he was a Piston…,” Paul George said on playing big playoff games with Reggie Jackson.
Clearly, Paul George is appreciative of Jackson’s presence and impact on the team; but the media isn’t. Every news outlet commended George’s 37 points while ignoring Jackson’s well-merited performance. Jackson did not get the credit he deserved.
Why? It’s because Paul George is a “star” and Reggie Jackson is a “role player”.
The media tries to sell you on the notion that there’s a list that each player belongs: Superstar, Allstar, Star, Role player, etc. Companies like ESPN and Bleacher Report perpetuate this hierarchal approach to the game by debating and stirring conversation on the tiers.
A role player is one excels in one or two aspects of basketball and is asked to perform those aspects primarily. They add a dimension to a team’s offense. Some stars, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, started off as role players for their team.
Basketball is a game of shots- players shoot the ball to score. There is a finite number of shots a team can shoot given the 48-minute time constraint, and stars shoot most of them. This is obvious- you want your best players taking the most shots.
Shot creation is a skill. A star, according to many analysts, needs to be able to create easy shots for themselves, and if needed, make difficult shots. The box score can’t quantify this intangible- a 30-foot three-point shot would be treated the same way as an open layup.
This poses the question: “What if I give those shots to a role player?” The answer is simple; if a role player takes many shots, those shots would become difficult and contrived, plummeting their efficiency.
But Reggie Jackson’s efficiency didn’t decrease, it increased. Reggie Jackson has the astuteness and skill of a star without the reputation of one. The media is able to manipulate a player’s reputation, which can have serious ramifications when it comes to their salaries. Players get paid on name and brand.
The nuances of the game go overlooked in a box score, similarly to how a player’s basketball skill and acumen go overlooked in a tier like role player, star player, and superstar. Reggie Jackson’s Cinderella story has blurred these lines, forcing us to rethink the way we view the game, a view devoid of labels and compartments.