Kevin Durant has spent more than a few moments on a basketball court peeved at Reggie Jackson. Alpha dogs, even cuddly alpha dogs like Durant, want the ball. Most of the time, Jackson is accommodating. Most of the time. But not always.
Jackson didn’t do a lot of passing down the stretch last Saturday night against Memphis. Only this time, Durant didn’t bark. In fact, when the game was over, Jackson earned a hug.
Not just a quick man-hug. Not a slap on the back. A waiting-to-exhale hug. A turn-on-the-tears hug. A welcome-to-the-club hug.
Jackson had just scored 32 points, including five in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, and saved not just Game 4 for the Thunder but maybe its season. This Western Conference playoff series is tied 2-2, and suddenly the Thunder has added to its list of prime-time players. Jackson stepped onto the stage and announced to the world that Durant and Russell Westbrook don’t have to take every big shot or score every big point.
Durant was grateful. Jackson was moved. Tears welled in Jackson’s eyes as he realized the magnitude of what he had done. Heck, Jackson got emotional Monday just talking about the emotion.
Don’t mistake Jackson’s emotions for softness. The Grizzlies, a pack of copperheads and cobras, will vouch for Jackson’s toughness. Who cares if Jackson wept after the game. Memphis knows all too well that steely look in Jackson’s eyes.
Maybe Jackson got all emotional because he’s a regular guy. They’re hard to find in pro basketball. It usually takes a certain personality to make the NBA. And the stardom that goes with making an NBA roster can change even the most grounded of people.
So far, that’s not Jackson. Soft-spoken. Introspective. Considerate of people. Jackson goes around saying that the only thing that can happen at the foul line is make or miss. The only thing that can happen in a ballgame is win or lose. He seems to have the perspective of a padre, not a pit bull point guard, though that’s exactly what he is.
“The embrace meant so much,” Jackson said. “We all may have our moments where we’re barking at each other, trying to get things done, but we’ve been here watching each other putting in the work to get better. Just that moment, getting it done, didn’t matter who got it done. We were happy to get it done.
“Special to share that moment with ‘em. We believe in each other so much. We’ve been talking about being able to hoist the trophy. We felt like that was a big moment for us.”
Caron Butler, who’s been on the scene only six weeks, called it “special” and said “couldn’t happen to a better person. He was ready for that moment.”
Too early to tell exactly how significant was Jackson’s performance. Breakout game or anomaly? I mean, Mike Dunleavy popped the Wizards for 35 points the other night. Anything’s possible.