Shooting the Lights Out – Remembering Chris Jackson

Every year, the NCAA tournament rolls around and it’s another case of March Madness across the nation.  Scouts drool, or not, over the next “crop of prospects.”  And every once in awhile, some announcer raves about the prowess of some player who is alleged to be the best thing since sliced bread – or the best shooter since Larry Bird or the best passer since Magic Johnson or the best ball handler since Isiah Thomas or the most prolific scorer since Lew Alcindor.

I’m here to tell you that player who fit that bill best was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on March 9, 1969.  He stood only 6 feet and 1 inch tall.  He played point guard in the deep south, at LSU.  His name at birth: Chris Wayne Jackson.  His name today: Mahmoud Abdul Rauf.

g_abdul_rauf_195.jpg

I love a good basketball argument, but honestly – in this case, it’s not even close.  There simply has not been another collegiate player who was as dominant in all phases of the offensive game as Chris Jackson at LSU.

He was the fastest with and without the ball.  He had the most range on his jumper.  He had hops…he had a killer crossover and didn’t have to palm the ball like most guards to get separation.  He was an awesome free throw shooter (91% as a sophomore).  He attacked the lane fearlessly, and was still able to score consistently from deep.  He was also an excellent passer.

I suspect that in many respects, he has been erased from the memory of most sports announcers because of his ill-fated professional decision to sit during the singing of the national anthem.  There was no way for him to win by taking that position.  His home was firebombed as a result of that decision.  His NBA career did not end immediately, thanks to consideration from those Vegas gamblers: the Maloof brothers and owners of the Sacramento Kings.  But, after his stint with the Kings ended, Abdul Rauf played in Turkey, Russia, Italy and Greece.

He also suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome.  He became a Muslim over the course of his career and fasted during Ramadan.  Hakeem Olajuwon did the same thing during his playing days, but his frame and stature seemed to handle the weight loss much better.

I’ve thought about many of the offensive superstars and compared their games to LSU’s mighty-mite.  Allen Iverson (possibly my favorite NBA small guy of all-time and alum of my favorite Hoya squad): Jackson was a better shooter (by far); a better ball handler, just as fast, and a much better free throw shooter.  Chris Paul: please.  Bobby Hurley: different universe.  Gary Payton:  nope; dominant on the box, but he had to work harder for his…offensive game improved tremendously in the pros.  Tim Hardaway: much, much slower, not as dominant from the line in late game situations…but awesome.  Kevin Johnson: explosive hops, great J, tremendous wheels and great free throw shooter – but can’t compare to Jackson’s quick release.  Terrell Brandon: close again – all the tools, but 30 ppg from a frosh in the SEC is tough to match.  Sam Cassell:  all the old school tools any hooper could ever ask for…one of my favorites – better as a pro; not a speedster, but super-duper clutch.  Nash: great player, but not comparable collegiately…apples and oranges.  Pearl Washington: hmm.  Aside from the speed, free throw shooting and jump shot range, they’re about even.  Pearl could get streaky from outside, but that was not a reliable source of points for him.  Sherman Douglas:  hell no.  Stephon Marbury: not from the outside.  Kenny Anderson: not from the outside.  Mark Price: everything – including the speed (if not the quickness in tight spaces and the hops)  and the free throw shooting…gotta think about this kid from Enid, Oklahoma.  He put it down back in the day.  I’m not going to talk about guys like Chris Corchiani or Rumeal Robinson or others…it’s simply not the right conversation for them.

For me, only Isiah Thomas is comparable because “Zeke” could have scored at will for Bob Knight’s Indiana teams.  He was an excellent free throw shooter, though not as good as Jackson.  He was a prolific passer.  Both players had lightning quick hands and were terrors for opposing point guards to beat off the dribble – but Isiah was a better defensive player.

I’ve been hoping to track down some archival footage of those LSU days – perhaps that amazing battle between LSU and Illinois when “Lou-Do” (Illini coach Lou Henson) put Kendall Gill and Steve Bardo on Jackson.  Jackson had just lit Payton and Oregon State up for about Fiddy – and he only hit the Illini for about 28 – but he demonstrated that elite 6’5″ defenders couldn’t touch him.  He ran Gill and Bardo ragged for 40 minutes, but the Illini were loaded and won easily.  Great game, 127-100.

Great player.  Abdul-Rauf, whose records were approached by Texas frosh Kevin Durant, is still the all-time leading NCAA freshman scorer.  He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and a sophomore.  He is someone who may be forgotten in some quarters, but certainly not by those with broken ankles slow to heal or top-notch defenders with dented pride.  If you can find some video, pass it on, and let’s keep this thing going.  LSU’s media guide refers to him as the “most celebrated freshman of all time.”  It’s been almost 20 years, but I haven’t seen anything like him since then.

44 comments

  1. I remember Chris Jackson/Raoof. His jumper was absolutely poison. I believe his having Tourette’s adversely affected his NBA production as well as coming out from LSU at least 1 year too early.

    I don’t remember him being that good of a ballhandler. He was very explosive vertically and horizontally — mostly like The Answer, Tiny Archibald, and KJ — but didn’t have a handle. Worse, he played no ‘D’. So he never really found a place in a NBA that doesn’t really accommodate height-challenged off-guards.

    Some of the players you listed by comparison were somewhat anonymous while in college, i.e.; Terrell Brandon, Kevin Johnson. Others, most notably Rumeal Robinson and Pearl Washington, were more about hype than results. You mentioned Sam ‘I’ll Shoot You In, I’ll Shoot You Out’ Cassell, but at 6’3″ he seems a little too tall for this list. Same thing with Gary Payton, who IIRC is taller.

    The player he resembled closest was Johnny Dawkins. Same slight build, same explosiveness. Both were really off-guards whose diminutive size and ballhandling skills didn’t translate to the pro game. Dawkins was a much better defender, though.

  2. I’ve got to find some tape. Jackson was an excellent ball handler and an excellent shooter off the dribble or off the catch.

    Also, he was a superior pick pocket at the point. He averaged nearly two steals per game both seasons at LSU. He probably would have averaged more in a different system.

    He did have a lot of turnovers, but I believe that was a function of being on the ball so much – and being so aggressive offensively. He was not an exclusively perimeter scorer.

    His LSU days were almost 20 years ago – so, I understand the fog of memory. I don’t claim total recall, either. Thanks.

  3. Chris jackson was the aboslute truth I am from Gulfport and I am only 24 but I’ve seen him plenty of times on the streets and in the gym so I have seen that shot first hand in person and its still deadly today 2007 about the terret because he is older that kinda effect his handles but that shot is the best I’ve seen bar none

  4. Glad I found this page. I have followed Chris Jackson from day one. I can and will back up by saying that Chris Jackson is the best college shooting guard and also the best NBA shooting guard either game has ever seen. Take us all the way back to the Dale Brown days. Chris Jackson broke most every record “the Pistol” set at LSU. Heard of Shaq? Didn’t hear about him when Chris Jackson was at LSU(sophmore year). Search Google Videos to Refresh your memory. The Best Shooting Guard the Game has ever seen.

    KK

  5. Thanks Double!

    Every once in a while, I’m struck by the collective amnesia over his greatness. He was the personification of the term “mercurial.” Can you imagine Allen Iverson with the consistent ability to make 30 foot jumpers? Or even the consistent ability to make 20 foot jumpers? I love AI, but CJ had “in the gym range.” If he was standing inside the gym, there was a damn good chance it was going down.

  6. FINALLY!!!!!!

    ive spent a number of years thinking about how one of the most talented basketball players EVER has been totally written out of b-ball history.
    im sure some hoop fans might disagree, but cj/ar was one of the best to ever touch a basketball. i think his decisions (fasting at bad times, etc) lead to hes game not fully developing at the nba level, but even in the nba, there were times when cj/ar was CLEARLY one of the best guards in the nba (even if it was for a short time).

    ive NEVER seen a player score the way cj/ar could. when i see film of him (on youtube) i get the chills.
    HE WAS THAT GOOD.
    id love to see a documentary made about him, his LEGEND lives amongst those who really understand how talented he was.

    anyone who has nba or college highlights of cj/ar write me at edwawee@aol.com

    im a HUGE fan of cj/ar. never seen a player do it the way he did. lets keep this cj thing going. atleast some of us have not forgat him.

  7. Not that I’m aware of. The last I heard, he was playing ball in Greece or something. If that’s the case, I’m sure you could send a letter that would find him. He may be spending off-seasons in Mississippi or Sacramento. Can’t say.

  8. Man, I’m from TN and I remember how he lit up my beloved Vols his soph year, (we had some hotshot frosh named Allan Houston). Nevertheless, this guy should get his due because I’ve never seen ANY guy come straight from h.s. and DOMINATE offensively like he did for two straight years. His j was just ridiculous! Guard him close and he just navigates around the defender, give him space and he’d hit a jumper from the parking lot he was so dangerous!

  9. He was the truth. I have another post about him with video…do a search for him – I can’t remember the name of it., but it features video of him heating SEC and NBA teams..

  10. Do you think if chris would have stayed in the nba, would he be one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

  11. Probably not statistically…between the Tourette’s and Ramadan (fasting), that’s alot to ask. I don’t know if he would have had the stamina or durability to play 10 years without injury. If he able to play as long with the durability of Allen Iverson, he’d be a house hold name and probably an international star.

    In the other post that I have of him on this blog, there are some fairly comical clips of guys like Jordan and Pippen trying to defend him. They didn’t have a chance.

  12. hey folks, I recall one of the Chris Jackson/Rauf highlights from a regular season game in which he ran a fast break & through a pass–at full speed—that bounced backwards between his legs ((or similar amazing feat for a young player)) right to another guy breakin’ fast who slammed-it home—-a highlight that would rival ANY player at ANY level of the game—to use an LSU comparison, even an “ALL great b-ball super-sly-passing-allstars,” it reminds me of Pistol Pete Maravich who’s sideways fast-break pass was so amazing that in real-time, it looked as if he DEFINITELY was throwing it forward yet it flew perfectly sideways—such a great trick-pass that RED Auerback himself featured Pistol Pete during a pro-game-halftime-show in order to show fans the amazing trick-pass…Chris/Abdul-Rauf and Pistol Pete were simply some of the most enjoyable exciting players you could EVER watch—and consider that Chris Jackson had DALE Brown for a coach—a guy that could recruit, but had fairly abysmal strategical-coaching ability ((just see the infamous final 4 in which Dale’s LSU team had Bobby Knight’s Hoosier’s down by about 20 points & totally dejected at halftime—then Knight simply outcoached Brown EASILY in the 2nd half with a MUCH less “all-star” team, and LSU’s b-ball program has never recovered—unless you consider a similar over-rated LSU b-ball coach—our current Brady who had Big Baby AND another couple of super-stars (one of them went pro after the final 4 a few years ago) yet Brady could only win by letting the players natural ability carry the team—Brady seemed to the same “Dale Brown lacking of strategy” problem, and that just might be an understatement!!
    Lastly, if ANYONE can fine that super “between-the-legs-fast-break-pass” from Chris Jackson/Rauf’s LSU days, PLEASE post the LINK;-)….
    Enjoy the current FINAL 4,,
    L8r,
    Rob
    =][=

  13. I have another post on here with video links to YouTube – it may be on that link…If you search for his name it should pop up.

  14. Chris Jackson aka Abdul-Rauf, is back in the news today. Apparently, he was playing overseas and one of his fellow players died at half time. I remember when he was playing. I was (still am) a huge UT Vols fan. I loved SEC Basketball, and he was as billed above. When someone asks me the greatest SEC basketball player I’ve ever watched, he’s the first that comes to mind. I don’t just qualify that as the best small man or guard. And I have seen Shaq, Barkley, Allan Houston, Gerald Glass, Barry Booker, Shan Foster, Chris Lofton, Noah, etc. Chris Jackson was tops. He was on SI cover as I recall when he was hot saying he invoked memories of Pistol Pete. How odd that I find this today because of someone dropping dead playing ball (as Marovich did). I lived in Richmond, VA when Jackson was playing for LSU. I was 24 and right out of college at UT. For my birthday, my mother gave me a long distance call…. well she sent me a poem which went something like this:

    In Baton Rouge the shootouts to be
    Between the LSU Tigers and the Vols of UT
    Will the Vols pull thru and win the fight
    Or will young Jackson light it up to the crowd’s delight

    It went on to say basically that she would call me and put the phone down by the radio so I could listen to the game. Well Jackson of course did light us up, as he usually did and LSU won. I wish it had worked out for him differently professionally.

  15. Boyd:

    Thanks for sharing that. I am always surprised by the capacity of the internet to bring people together with great stories to share about Mahmoud and his unparalleled talents.

    I have done another post on him that includes some great clips from YOUTUBE. Just type his name in and it will pop up. Enjoy.

    BTW, I remember those LSU – UT games. He torched them just like he did everyone else. Thanks again.

  16. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. My fiancee and I just watched the Chris Jackson special at 4 a.m.
    I’ve known Chris since he was in middle school in Gulfport. We were the first white folks on railroad street just outside Siourx City as his area was called. No finer young man lived there. No finer ball player either.
    Oh yeah, In case any one missed it I am a white, middle- aged, dyed in the wool Southern Baptist woman.
    I know he does not even respond to Chris anymore, but I love the Chris I knew. That my late hubby Russell ( the first Gulfport High Commodore) and I and our son Jeremy went to watch play every game and followed to the state play offs and to LSU games and would have gone to pro games if he had not been so badly mistreated. Gee I thought this was the United States of America, home of freedom of religion. No, I do not support Muslim beliefs at all. But I do know Chris to have a good heart and wish that all those years ago I had realized that he needed someone to tell him more about my Lord Jesus Christ the Creator of our universe and then maybe everyone would remember what a marvelous talent Chris was given. That he developed down at second street park. May God touch him and his and bless him with more than was taken away from him. We the sports fans of Mississippi were robbed of a great treasure and heritage.

  17. I saw chris first hand being from Gulfport and I can tell you…. I have been around B-ball for a long time and we have not seen nor will we ever see another CJ. The diff is when CJ played at LSU all players and fans alike understood one thing, That he was the best player in the land. No other player was even close!! Thats the difference. Earl Watkins at USL also from Gpt/Long Beach was one of the best!!! A pure shooter

  18. Also… espn had a special on a about a month ago, it was called ( The Twenty greatest shooters in college B-ball history). CJ did not even make the list, and I thought ESPN
    was crediable… Arrrreeee you kidding me

  19. dude… i saw chris jackson @ the Maravich center go up between mourning and mutombo who were standing shoulder to shoulder under the basket with their hands held straight up. he stinkin’ posterized both of em’ simultaneously with a one handed dunk. I would love to have that video…

  20. I’m really appreciating all the love for Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf on this website. I have just about all of his games from his freshman and sophomore season on dvd. He was by far the best shooter i’ve ever seen. I’m young so I never got to see him play live, but after watching his LSU games there has never been a player yet who could match his shooting ability. This guy had to practice thousands of shots everyday to have a shot like that. Thanks for the love.

  21. I remember Chris Jackson from the days right after I joined the military. I was stationed in Biloxi Mississippi, just a few miles away from where Chris played his high school games. Man, that was something to behold. You had to get to the gym two hours early just to get in. That dude would score relentless from anywhere on the court. I knew when I saw him the first time that he would be a sensation and then I saw him teamed up a few years later with Shaq at LSU. I think that he was the best dribbler and shooter that I had ever seen. He was like Earl the Pearl, Walt Frazier, and Pistol Pete all wrapped up in one. It is a shame that his career was of course shortened by his disease. He should be considered the best college point guard that played pound for pound and shot for shot

  22. Here is a nice summary on the legend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Abdul-Rauf

    Im living and working in Beijing now and am trying to get over to see him play in Japan. It’s a short range jumper from Beijing to Kyoto.

    LSU #35… I miss my high school days of watching him light up everyone in his path.

    I commend his decisions as an athlete and spiritually engaged human being. He has lived a very global life thus far and probably has a deeper understanding and appreciation of the variety of peoples, cultures, nations, etc. in this world than a typical “baller” from the NBA.

  23. I was in HS in Baton Rouge when Chris played for LSU. He was solid from the free throw line and the best ball handler in college basketball. I begged my mom to take me to LSU games to see him play. I was sad to see him leave LSU a year early, but we all knew his Tourette’s was getting worse. The word was he had to leave before an NBA career would be out of the question. LSU really needs to make a “Best Of ” tape of all his best plays. If you’ve never see what he can do, you have seriously missed out!

  24. I have a few games of CJ on video and drove to Indianapolis to watch him as a pro when he would come to town and play against the Pacers. I am going to tell you all this….this cat was the JOINT! He could break off a defender at the blink of an eye. The game against Florida in 88′ at FLORIDA he scored 53 and I have that game on VHS tape still today. It was silly to just watch him drag defenders with the crossover and then the quick release. He fouled to Florida guards out that game and was working on a third guard that had 4 fouls. If you think his handle was suspect….think again. He could get separation whenever he felt like it. There were a few games where he literally would score LSU’s last 16, 18, or 20 points. There is a clip on youtube against Vandy where he put the ball through his legs and brought it back through his legs from back to front and literally froze the defender raised up in the defenders mug errr face and stroked the three. The announcers didn’t know what to say. You probably will never see an offensive talent like him EVER again in college. Literally a one man wrecking crew on a subpar LSU team but he carried that team on his back literally!

  25. I was a sophomore at Gulfport when he was a senior. I remember one day after practice he was shooting free throws and he said the shot didn’t feel right coming off his hand. He finally said “that shot felt good on my release, so I’m going to call it quits.” He had made 283 free throws in a row before one finally felt good coming out of his hand. What an amazing talent he was!

  26. I played against Chris in High School. I was from Biloxi, Ms (rivals) and matched up against him for two years as the Biloxi High starting point guard. Much respect to Chris and all his accomplishments. The cross over sick, pulling up from the timeline sick, and his commitment to the game unbelievable. After joining the Army I followed his career and wish it could have went further. But his contribution as an athelete to the Mississippi Gulf Coast leaves only one word to place on him, Legend!

  27. To ESPN and LSU: SHAME ON YOU!!!! Shame on ESPN for leaving Chris out of the list of the top twenty best shooters in college history. And shame on LSU for not even recognizing Chris at their Pete Maravich Center where there hangs banners for Shaq and Pistle Pete and not one for the two-time 1st team All-American Chris Jackson!

  28. Thanks. I didn’t know that ESPN had ventured down this road again. They really don’t have any credibility with folks who know sports. They have that captive demographic who enjoy the games and don’t have the time or inclination to delve beyond what’s dished up. Any list without MAR of collegiate scorers is comical on its face.

  29. I remember the days of going to The B. Frank Brown Gym while Chris Jackson was playing for Gulfport High. It was the best show in town…period! You would get there early because you knew bf tip off it would be standing room only. I can recall getting there late a few times and I had to stand outside the door…I stood there and watched the whole game. Leaving was out of the question! You could actually get a pretty good view from there:)He’s the best player to come out of those parts. However, I think Earl Watkins of Long Beach may have been a more complete player…Earl was a pretty good one on one defender and more of a pure shooter.

  30. I’ve played bball and watched many players all of my life, but Chris Jackson is still the best bar none. He’s a once in a lifetime jewel. We will never see anyone like him in our lifetime. Simply the best!!!!

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