Stephen Jackson Hopes Playing In The BIG3 Can Launch An NBA Comeback

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Stephen Jackson last played in the NBA in 2013-14 with the Clippers and has since become one of ESPN’s top NBA analysts in his three years out of the league. Most would expect Jackson to have settled into his new life off the court — but still very much connected to the NBA — but it’s much harder than that for someone whose entire adult life was defined by playing basketball.

Retiring and staying retired is something many athletes struggle with, as they can still see plenty of the skills that made them among the best in the world and feel like they can still play. The BIG3 gives players like Jackson an outlet for showing off those skills in an environment tailor made for an aging player. They play one halfcourt game once a week for 10 weeks, reducing the wear and tear on the body.

However, being back on the court, while being a release, also stirs up feelings for some that they could make it back to the NBA. Jackson is among those that hopes his play in the BIG3 can spark a return to the NBA as a 39-year-old, as he told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio News-Express.

“I’ve been working to go back to the NBA, so this [league] is a blessing for me,” Jackson said. “I want to play basketball as long as I can. I feel like there are guys in the NBA who can’t guard me.”

Ice Cube has said from the start of the league that he hoped some players would be able to take their BIG3 success and parlay it into an NBA contract. Jackson is among the league’s best players and after dropping 23 points in the Killer 3’s win on Sunday night in Dallas, he’s hopeful teams are taking notice while understanding that it’s probably not likely.

“I ain’t putting all my eggs in one hat,” he said. “I know what people think of me, and that’s probably kept me out of the game. But as long as I’m playing and am around people I respect and am able to play the game, I’m cool. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, I love where I’m at.”

His ESPN gig is a very nice fallback should an NBA return not pan out, but Jackson feels he’s in “the best shape of his life” — a common refrain from those looking to make a comeback — and ready to contribute. As he notes, his reputation around the league isn’t the most stellar. He’s respected by peers, but his attitude and standing as one of the league’s legitimate tough guys hasn’t always endeared him to coaches and front offices. It’s hard to see a team taking a shot on Jackson at this point in his career, but maybe someone will be impressed enough with his BIG3 showing to give him a look.