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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Jackson runs business in Toledo where basketball success began

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Inside Jim Jackson's spacious office at JAJ Company in west Toledo can be found a number of photographs and mementos capturing some of the essence of the Toledo native's existence.

Ohio State University paraphernalia is present. A number of plaques and awards he's received over the years for his community involvement sit on bookshelves or on top of his huge desk. There are even a couple of construction hats on shelves that were worn by him during ground-breaking business

ceremonies.

Surprisingly, there are no signs in the room that tell of Jackson's work over 14 seasons playing in the National Basketball Association. An autographed painting of Muhammad Ali, Jackson's idol, is the most visible item identifying a professional athlete.

There are no framed NBA jerseys worn by Jackson hanging on the walls. There are no photographs of him in any NBA attire. No references to the business most people associate him with.

"I never really thought about it," said Jackson, adding that until recently he had nothing NBA-related displayed in his southwest Toledo home. But his wife, Shawnee, decided to hang a few items to chronicle his NBA career.

Nearly two seasons have passed since Jackson last put on an NBA uniform and played in a regular-season game. He started his career in 1992 as a promising first-round draft choice tabbed as a player capable of turning around a faltering franchise after three years at Ohio State.

At least the Dallas Mavericks brass thought so and used the No. 4 overall draft pick to grab him.

Injuries and perhaps even some NBA politics prevented the versatile, 6-foot-6, 220-pounder, from reaching his full potential. But he never stopped working to prove himself - playing 14 seasons with 13 different teams, ending with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006.

"I'm very pleased," said Jackson, when asked to sum up his NBA career. "To play 14 years, to be able to do what I've done over those years, even with the number of teams I've played for. I think that from the respect standpoint that I get from my peers is what is most important to me.

"And throughout those 14 years I've been able to meet a lot of great teammates. From a business perspective, it opened up a lot of doors."

One business door opened was a career in broadcasting.

Jackson spent the past season working as a men's college basketball analyst for the Big Ten Network, which is in its first year of operation.

A broadcast agent, who was impressed with how Jackson conducted himself during interviews in front of the camera throughout his career, approached Jackson's agent a few years back to see if he'd be interested in broadcasting work after the NBA.

The 37-year-old Jackson took him up on the offer.

"We looked at ESPN as an option and [we] thought the Big Ten Network would be even better because it's in my backyard," said Jackson, who still calls Toledo home. "I'm from the Big Ten but I was hesitant because I had been away from college for so long, but after we evaluated it we thought that was the best way to get into the industry.

"From a career standpoint it was probably the best move in terms of starting on the ground level with a new company and I can be a part of its growth."

The Big Ten Network, which is headquartered in Chicago, allowed Jackson to not only work as one of the main studio analysts, it also gave him a chance to work as a game analyst.

Big Ten Network studio host Dave Revsine thought Jackson's first year went as well as expected for someone breaking into the business.

"I think he's great," Revsine said. "I absolutely think he can do this and that was pretty obvious early."

Revsine, who attended Northwestern and was quite familiar with Jackson - a two-time Big Ten player of the year - compliments Jackson for approaching his work as a college basketball analyst with the same vigor and professionalism he displayed over the course of his basketball career.

"The big thing you worry about is work ethic," Revsine said. "Jim was really into it right from the start. He studied and he knew all the players [in the Big Ten]. He obviously had the talent and he's naturally an engaging guy."

The transition from the court into the broadcast booth couldn't have occurred at better time. The opportunity presented itself right around the same time he made his retirement from the NBA official. He submitted his retirement forms during the fall prior to the start of the 2007-08 season.

Jackson had career averages of 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, but suffered a career-altering ankle injury during his third season with Dallas. At the time, he was averaging a career-best 25.7 points, which ranked in the top 10 among the league's scoring leaders during the 1994-95 season.

After months of rigorous training and therapy, he returned to the court. He, was not the same player, however, and never scored as much or shot as well from the field in any season as he did when he made 47 percent during the 51 games of his third season.

"It took away my athletic ability as far as jumping and running, but it happened for a reason," Jackson said of his injury. "It made me focus on what am I going to do for the rest of my life. What am I going to do if I seriously get injured and can't play any more? So, things happen for a reason and I try not to question why, I try to look at the silver lining underneath. It's easy to say, 'What if, what if, what if?' It happened and from that I've learned so much."

The first thing he realized was he had to alter his playing style.

"I'm a right-handed player so I had to jump off my left foot and now I had a third-degree sprain on my left ankle," Jackson said. "Scar tissue moved up to my knee and I had tendinitis.

"You've taken away explosion, which totally changes the way you play until you can get some of that explosion back and that's what I had to do."

Jim Tichy, a longtime local sports anchor for WNWO (channel 24) who retired nearly a year ago, said he has not seen any of Jackson's work on BTN, but believes he can be successful in the broadcast booth.

"He's an eloquent man," Tichy said. "He's a great spokesman, not only for the schools he represents, but for the businesses he represents. He's always been a well-rounded individual, not only athletically."

As for Jackson's playing days at Macomber - the now-defunct school he led to the 1989 Division I state championship - Tichy thinks Jackson was second to none.

"I do think Jim Jackson was one exceptional high school basketball player, perhaps the best I've ever seen in Toledo and northwest Ohio during my 35 years of working in broadcasting," he said.

"He was extraordinary. He did things in high school basketball that I had not seen done before."

Jackson's hope is to establish the same kind of reputation in all of his business pursuits, including his broadcast aspirations.

"I always said I want to be a better businessman than a basketball player," he said. "That means I'm going to give the same effort in business that I did to be my best as a basketball player. That means coming into the office early and staying late. If I've got to go to meetings or if I've got to do research, whatever it takes to help our company to grow that's what I've got to do."

Besides making the half-hour flight from Toledo to Chicago a couple times a week for his BTN in-studio duties during the college basketball season, Jackson maintains a busy schedule. The founder of JAJ Company, which is a Toledo-based company focused on real-estate projects and developments, invests time working on the development and completion of such business plans as the renovation of Toledo Edison's former downtown steam plant.

Jackson also spends as much time as possible with his son, Traevon Jackson, who is a freshman at Columbus Westerville South. The younger Jackson (6-foot-1 guard) is a member of Westerville South's basketball team that lost in a regional

final to eventual Division I state champion Newark, which defeated Whitmer in a state semifinal.

Jackson's number is retired at Ohio State and hangs from the rafters inside Value City Arena. He has had discussions with his son about playing basketball and the attention he figures to draw following in the footsteps of his father.

"I told him there's good and bad," Jackson said. "You've got benefits and then you have the curse of it. There are a lot of great benefits but the curse of it is they will try to compare you to me or say what you have to live up to. Or guys are going to come at you harder because they're trying to prove a point. That's all right because that's how you want it because you can't have one without the other.

"But I talk to him more about life and how to handle things more than basketball. Basketball is just a small part of it but he can use basketball and get a lot of what he wants to do from it and get a lot accomplished.

"My whole thing is if you're going to play the game, be committed to it. You've got to work your [butt] off. I don't care if you don't make it to the pros or college, but you'll learn a lot by going through this process."

In the meantime, Jackson said there has been little down time since playing his last game in the NBA to completely miss being a part of the league. His daily planner stays full.

"I didn't have time to go through withdrawal because I've been too busy," he said. "With a small start-up company, it's every day, 24 hours a day. I'm in town, I'm out of town. I'm meeting, going to meet with people trying to raise money. I really don't watch a lot of basketball other than what I have to watch for college. I follow the pro game a little but not a lot. I'm really in tune with what my son is doing and trying to grow the business.

"Missing the [NBA] games, at times, I do - the camaraderie and the playing, but other than that I don't really have time to think about it."

Contact Donald Emmons at

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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