Playing Devil's Advocate: Is Former Knick Mark Jackson Hall of Fame Worthy?

Keith SchlosserAnalyst IDecember 4, 2009

13 Dec 2001:  Point guard Mark Jackson #13 of the New York Knicks posts up point guard Chucky Atkins #7 of the Detroit Pistons during the NBA game at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan. The Pistons defeated the Knicks 99-97. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice \ Mandatory Credit:  Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

Throughout his career, Mark Jackson was a prime example of the traditional point guard. He was a very vocal leader, a true floor general, and a precise passer who involved his teammates in the most accurate ways during games.

Jackson retired in 2004 and 2010 will mark his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. He holds career averages of 9.6 points, eight assists, and 1.24 steals per game. He was also second on the all-time assists list with 10,334 until Jason Kidd finally passed him late last month.

While being third on the all-time assists list is impressive, is it enough to get a call from the Hall?

In addition to Jackson, players like Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Chris Mullin are also up for consideration. Jackson is clearly the best point guard out of this year’s class, but as a potential Hall of Famer, does he have to be one of the best point guards of all-time ?  If so, then Mark Jackson should not be in the Hall of Fame.

John Stockton. Oscar Robertson. Magic Johnson. Isiah Thomas. Those are names of point guards already in the Hall of Fame that averaged more assists than Jackson in addition to rounding out the top 10 players with the most assists. All four players were better examples of an overall player, rather than just simply a point guard.

All four were multiple time all-stars. John Stockton repeatedly led his team into the NBA Finals, and if it weren’t for Michael Jordan, Stockton might have actually won a championship. Oscar Robinson was a serious threat to produce a triple-double on any given night, in addition to being an NBA champion and multiple MVP winner, as was Magic Johnson. Isiah Thomas was also an NBA champion.

Furthermore, there is a reason why Jackson was able to rack up so many assists. His career spanned 17 seasons, he never played less than 72 games in a season (twice) before the last year of his career, and he ended up starting 1,092 out of a possible 1,296 games.

While Jackson is currently third on the all-time assists list, there have been plenty of guards with career assist averages higher than Jackson’s. At this rate, with the number of games and assist averages (currently higher than Jackson’s) that guards like Chris Paul and Deron Williams are putting up, who’s to say they will not climb up the list and pass Jackson before their careers are over?

In that case, in about 10-15 years, Jackson is almost sure to be around fifth or sixth on the all-time list, with, unfortunately, not much else Hall of Fame worth to show for it.

Jackson was never an MVP, nor an NBA champion. He only made one all-star appearance throughout his career. He was, however, a major part of quite a few playoff teams in his two stints with the Knicks, which any Knicks fan today will tell you is enough to be considered a Hall of Famer.

Despite being in the playoffs many times, Jackson never stood out as a proven winner like others before him (or during his time) had. Hall of Famers tend to leave a winning legacy. Jackson left little more than being a gifted passer and a solid floor general. He was, however, a terrific role model and an honorable statesperson.

In this day and age, where Tiger Woods admits to an affair and Ron Artest admits to drinking alcohol at halftime during games, how much does carrying yourself in a professional manner weigh in on the decision to pave the way into the Hall of Fame?

That seems to be a crucial debate concerning the Hall of Fame’s potential 2010 class. Malone and Pippen appear to be the two shoo-ins. Next in line are Rodman and Jackson, who both have pros and cons yet happen to be on completely different ends of the spectrum in regard to personality.

As much as Jackson, a minister, carried himself in a respectful manner, Rodman was known for being an absolute wild man, although his reckless abandon underneath the glass helped make him one of the best rebounders the league has ever seen. If his play can stand out enough to give his inappropriate behavior a free pass to help him sneak into the Hall of Fame, is it safe to say Jackson’s decent behavior will give him a leg up into entering the Hall?

It is going to be a tough call, but right now, I cannot say Jackson would get my vote.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame, obviously the league wants to elect good role models. But it ultimately comes down to what you did on the court. Mark Jackson was a very solid, perhaps even great, point guard. However, when compared to those of his generation and the ones who came before him, he just doesn’t quite stack up.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what decision and explanation is given come April 2010.