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JERRY STACKHOUSE




NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse

In Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals, a turnover by the Dallas Mavericks appeared to be leading to an easy breakaway bucket by the Miami Heat. The score was 68-51, and for the second night in a row, it looked like Miami would defeat Dallas, knotting the series at a two games apiece.

Heat guard Jason Williams pushed the ball into the open court, the cheers of the hometown fans building in American Airlines Arena, then laid the ball off to a streaking Shaquille O'Neal. A thunderous dunk was in the making – the kind of dunk that would unleash an exuberant roar from the crowd, and punctuate a message to Dallas: Momentum in this series has shifted.

But as O'Neal – all seven plus feet and 325 pounds of him – rose for the slam, a blur of Dallas blue vaulted into frame. Outweighed by more than 100 pounds, shorter by more than half a foot, Jerry Stackhouse jumped right at O'Neal, swiping at the ball and colliding with the massive center, sending him crashing to the hardwood. Chaos ensued. As teammates restrained the two players and coaches and officials tried to restore order, O'Neal glared at Jerry, barking at him.

Jerry barked back. He had a message to send of his own: You might beat us, but no matter what, you will respect us. There is no fear here.
 

 

THE ORIGIN OF RESPECT

The toughness and resilience that have defined the 15-year NBA career of Jerry Stackhouse are rooted in Kinston, North Carolina. A small hardworking southern town shaped by the Civil War, Jerry was born on November 5, 1974, the youngest of 11 siblings.

His mother and father were children of sharecroppers, and that past fueled an intense drive in them. Jerry's father never missed a day of work driving a sanitation truck, while his mother split time as a line cook during the week, and a preacher on Sundays. The two had but one rule in their house -- a rule every member of the Stackhouse clan obeyed from the day they were born.


Jerry's mother, Minnie Stackhouse

His mother, Minnie, spelled things out plainly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“If you can't give me nothing else," she said, "give me respect."

The work ethic Jerry learned from his parents carried over to sports, and with his natural athletic ability, he excelled no matter what he played. At 13, Little League pitchers started walking Jerry because of his power. In middle school, he started at quarterback and was named the team's MVP. All of that, of course, was a preamble to hoops.

Playing basketball for Kinston High School, Jerry rapidly became one of the nation's top players. By his junior year, he was averaging nearly 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists a game. But despite the attentions of recruiters and being North Carolina's high school player of the year, Jerry decided to change high schools. The environment in Kinston, he explained later to the Washington Post, was a trying one.

“Some of my friends had given up on school. I just didn't want to be coerced into trying some of those things. A couple of my friends dropped out of school and were selling drugs and trying to come up with fast money. I felt it could really jeopardize what I wanted to do."

Jerry transferred to Oak Hill Academy, a boarding school 300 miles from his hometown that would give him a chance to excel on the court and off it. In his first semester, Jerry finished with straight As. Where basketball was concerned, his effort was comparable. Playing against far superior talent, Jerry led Oak Hill to an undefeated season and high school national championship. After dominating the competition in the McDonald's All-American Game, scoring 27 points and earning MVP honors, Jerry was the hottest basketball commodity in the country.
 

 

TO BE A TAR HEEL

The best basketball player in America had his choice of colleges, but for a boy raised in North Carolina, there was only one place Jerry could go: UNC, college of Michael Jordan. His mother also felt that Dean Smith was the right man to mentor her son, and during Jerry's freshman year, she would be proven correct.

North Carolina had a seniority system, and for Jerry, waiting in the wings was at odds with his personality. He felt he was ready to contribute. Soon his frustration had him thinking about transferring. His mother had other ideas, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“She began unpacking her advice and her aphorisms. She started talking about how Coach Smith had a tough job on his hands and how, if he was a senior, he certainly wouldn't want some freshman taking his job. ‘You put yourself in those other players' place,' she told him.”

He did, and once Jerry had bought into the system, he soared. In the opening round of the ACC Tournament, his 19 points and near perfect performance from the free throw line led UNC past Florida State. In the semis, Jerry – known as Stack to his teammates – hit the game-winner with just five seconds left, propelling the Tar Heels past Wake Forest. And in the championship game, he recorded 14 points and seven rebounds as his team bested UVA, winning UNC's first ACC Tournament title in three years.


Jerry Stackhouse, 1995 SI Player of the Year.

With 47 points in three games, Jerry earned MVP honors, becoming only the third freshman in Tar Heel history to win the award.

Coming back for his sophomore season, Stack, along with classmate Rasheed Wallace, and the rest of the Tar Heels were predicted to be one of the best teams in the country. They refused to disappoint.

The team tore through NCAA competition, winning its first nine times out. Along the way, Jerry had games of 21, 22 and 29 points. Though they fell to NC State to open ACC play, the Heels reeled off nine straight wins after that. Jerry scored more than 20 points in six of those games, including dropping 25 in avenging UNC's loss to NC State later in the season.

North Carolina finished 24-5 and garnered a two seed in the NCAA Tournament's Southeast Bracket. They demolished Murray State and Iowa State, with Jerry putting up 40 points over the two games. In the Sweet Sixteen, he ran into a freshman having a year nearly as sensational as his, Allen Iverson of Georgetown. It made no difference. Jerry's Heels won the matchup and moved on to face top-seeded Kentucky in the Regional Final.

In another big game, Jerry didn't disappoint, and his 18-point, 12-board performance catapulted the Heels back into the Final Four. It also earned him the region's MVP award. Though the season ended in the next game against eventual NCAA champion Arkansas, the accolades didn't end for No. 42. On the post-season banquet circuit, Stack earned first-team All-American honors, first team all-ACC and most importantly, Sports Illustrated's National Player of the Year. And, after he finished his final exams, he made the announcement everyone was expecting.
 

 

HEADED TO PHILADELPHIA

On June 28th, 1995, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that with the third pick, the Philadelphia 76ers had selected Jerry Stackhouse. Team owner Howard Katz new he had a future star on his hands.

“He's extremely mature...He lays everything out. He understands his goals. He's realistic. He's willing to work. The key to being a good player, I think, is in the learning. He's very coachable. He asks all the right questions. He'll do anything Coach Lucas asks him to do. I think he's going to (become a star) a lot faster than most people do at that age."

Katz seemed prescient when, on opening night, Stack unleashed a 27-point barrage on the Washington Bullets. It was the most an NBA rookie had scored in his first game since 1988. Three days later, Jerry proved that his outburst would be part of a trend, exploding for 34 points against the Sacramento Kings.


Stack drives the lane, 1995-96 (Getty Images).

He maintained a torrid pace in the NBA's opening two months, scoring over 20 points in 16 of his first 20 games. He then closed out December and brought in the New Year with a six-game stretch averaging 21 points. And while a broken thumb sidelined Stack for the final eight games of the year – nearly a tenth of a season – he still tallied 100 more points than any previous rookie in 76ers history, and was named to the league's All-Rookie Team.

When Philadelphia drafted Allen Iverson the following season, it appeared that the 76ers would start one of the most formidable backcourts in recent memory. The duo combined for 44 points in their very first game together, and would maintain that average for the entire season. But for whatever reason, their offensive production failed to translate into victories. Midway through a third losing season with Philadelphia, Jerry was traded to the Detroit Pistons.
 

 

MOTOWN MOJO

Overnight, Stack went from a bottom dwelling franchise to a team fighting for a playoff spot. The move immediately rejuvenated Jerry, who scored 33 points in his Motown debut. Though the Pistons finished 10 games out of a playoff spot, Jerry felt comfortable enough with the city and team to re-sign at the end of the year.

He saw a future in the team, and his faith was rewarded. The following year Stack and the Pistons finished eight games over .500 in a strike-shortened season, clinching the first playoff berth of No. 42's young career. They took the Atlanta Hawks to the brink, falling in the fifth game of a best of five series. Looking to return to the playoffs, Stack played the next season with a fierce determination, reaching the foul line 758 times – over nine times a game – which was good for second in the league. He also hit career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals, and as a result, the Pistons made it to the playoffs for the second time in two seasons.

In 2001, Detroit lost Grant Hill, but while the team actually improved, it still only mustered a 32-50 record. The sole highlight of the year was Jerry, whose 2000-2001 season was marked by an offensive explosion. From opening night, when he rang up 44 points against the Toronto Raptors, Stack was one fire. Over a midseason stretch of 31 games, Jerry scored 30 or more points 17 times, including three games where he racked up at least 40.


The faces say it all (Getty Images).

The night of April 3, 2001, however, would be a night to remember. In Chicago Stadium, former home to Michael Jordan, Jerry outdid his fellow North Carolina alumus, scoring more points than anyone there ever had. Going 21-36 from the field on an assortment of pull up jumpers, deep threes, and drives, Stack racked up 57 points. The most Jordan had ever mustered: 53.

It was also the most points ever scored by a Piston in a single game.

Stack finished the season averaging nearly 29.8 points a game, far and away the most prolific offensive year of his career.  

The following season, Detroit hired a new coach, Rick Carlisle, who asked Jerry to be more of a leader and less of a scorer. Stack did just that, and behind his veteran leadership, the Pistons went 52-30. Jerry had reached the playoffs again. This time, Stack and Co. defeated the Toronto Raptors, 3-2, and for the first time, Jerry found himself in the second round of the postseason. It would be short-lived, however. After winning Game 1 of the series against the Boston Celtics, Detroit lost four straight games and the season was over.
 

 

A STOP IN WASHINGTON

During the offseason, Jerry was hit with surprising news: He had been traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange primarily for Richard Hamilton. Stack suddenly found himself teamed up with the player who, at least as a scorer, he had been often compared: Michael Jordan.

Washington general manager Wes Unseld thought Stack would be the perfect compliment to the aging MJ.

“When you have the opportunity to add an All-Star player of Jerry's caliber, you can't hesitate on the chance to strengthen the team...We had to part with several players we were very high on, but we feel we have improved.”

While the two Tar Heel alumni combined for 41 points a game for the season, the Wizards went 37-45, and at the season's end, Jordan retired. Jerry was supposed to lead a younger nucleus in the 2003-04 season, but a knee injury sidelined Stack before the year began, keeping him out of the first 56 games. By the time he returned, the Washington was out of playoff contention.

A change was needed, and during the offseason, it came. 
 

 

MAVERICK MAGIC

In the summer of 2004, Jerry and Christian Laettner were traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Antawn Jamison. Stack took on a new role with the Mavericks, primarily contributing as a role player off the bench, yet for the first time in his career, he experienced true postseason success.

Jerry's first season, Dallas reached the second round of the playoffs. Against the Houston Rockets, Stack averaged nearly 13 points as the Mavs won the series in seven games. Against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, Stack raised his average by six points, going for 19 per game -- including a 29-point outburst in the fifth game of the series. And while Dallas was defeated, four games to one, the 58-win season was still the best in franchise history.


Stack celebrates beating the Spurs (Getty Images).

It was also the start of something special.

Remarkably, with Jerry continuing to thrive as a role player, Dallas improved even more in the 2005-06 season. He averaged 13 points per game playing just under 28 minutes a night, and the Mavericks wrapped up the regular season with 60 victories.  As they entered the playoffs, Dallas was the prohibitive favorite in the West, and for the first time in his career, Stack had a legimitate shot at winning an NBA championship.

In the first round of the postseason, Jerry scored 18.5 points per game in a four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies. That put Stack and his teammates up against their in-state arch-rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, and in a hotly contested seven game matchup, Jerry did not disappoint. He scored at least 10 points in every game, averaging 16 points for the series, and his 26-point outburst in Game 4 helped push Dallas to a 3-1 lead. When the Mavericks emerged victorious in Game 7, they found themselves facing Phoenix again for the conference title.

Stack and the Mavericks would exact revenge on the team that had eliminated them from the playoffs a year earlier. No. 42 averaged 13.2 points per game, and with a 4-2 series triumph, Jerry found himself in the NBA Finals, his team facing the Miami Heat. While Dallas was the favorite, Stack knew that his opponent would be fielding Shaquille O'Neal, Dwayne Wade, Gary Payton and a host of other formidable talents, and in his typical fashion, laid out the series for Canada's National Post.

"It's not going to be easy either way."

Jerry's comments turned out to be prescient. In Game 1, Stack drove hard to the basket -- only to be met aggressively by O'Neal, who fouled Jerry hard enough to leave him with three stitches. But as the New York Times described, it only served to showcase Jerry's resolve.

"[Stackhouse] responded by running off 10 points in 79 seconds during the second quarter of Game 2 to lift the Mavericks to a 2-0 series lead."

Momentum seemed to be headed Dallas' way. But back in Miami, the resurgent Heat took Game 3. In Game 4, the Mavericks came out flat and the Heat punished them, leading to Stack's foul on O'Neal -- a foul that was later deemed flagrant, and which caused Jerry to be suspended for Game 5 of the series. Dallas was outraged, particularly since O'Neal made light of the foul in post-game comments -- a foul that left him on the hardwood, but no worse for wear (and stitch-free).


The Foul (Getty Images).

Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said it best.

"Shaquille O'Neal does the same thing, he gets a slap on the wrist...I've seen it before, it's been around forever. Certain players get royal treatment and certain players don't.''

Dallas would lose Game 5, 101-100, making Stack's 10.5 points per game average look all the more important in his absence. Jerry returned for Game 6, but by that point, Miami had taken control of the series, which ended in six games.

It was the closest Stack would get to a title as a member of the Mavericks. In the 2006-07 season, Dallas won an astounding 67 games, with Jerry averaging 12 points per contest. But the Mavericks were stunned in the opening round of the postseason, eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in six games. The two remaining years that Jerry spent with Dallas were marked by injury; he played in only 58 games in 2007-08, and just 10 in 2008-09.
 

 

THE TWILIGHT

For the first half of the 2009-10 season, Jerry found himself a free agent for the first time in his career, and spent his time training and hosting "Stack's House," a weekly show on Sirius Satellite Radio. He was biding his time, looking for a team in need of a veteran's leadership and knowledge, eager to contribute to a squad with real playoff posibilities.


Stack joined the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010 and helped them to the playoffs (Getty Images).

Jerry joined the Milwaukee Bucks on January 18, 2010 and helped the team make a great playoff run, surging through the ranks of Eastern Conference contenders. The Bucks made the postseason for the first time in four years as Stack averaged 8.5 points in 42 games down the stretch. In the playoffs, Milwaukee went head-to-head with the Atlanta Hawks in an epic seven game series, but came up short of advancing.

After the 2009-10 season Stack was once again an NBA free agent. The summer of 2010 was a whirlwind one in free agency, culminating in the formation of the Big Three in Miami with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in South Beach to go after a championship. The addition of two big stars to the roster made the Heat and attractive destination for free agents and on October 23, just days before the season was set to begin, Stack signed on to join the trio in Miami.

Stack ended up playing just seven games for the Heat with one start before they agreed to part ways. He transitioned to a job in the media, working as an analyst for NBA TV on the Game Time highlight program. He also continued to host Stack's House on Sirius Satellite Radio.

But all the while, Jerry stayed in game shape and kept his ears open in the event that an opportunity arose for him to return to the league.

That chance came following the 2011 NBA Lockout when teams quickly had to assemble teams in the month before the shortened 11-12 season was to begin. On December 9, 2011, Stack reached an agreement to return to the NBA as a member of another perennial playoff team, the Atlanta Hawks. When he signed, Jerry noted that he still had a lot more to give the game.


"It's amazing how it goes. When you lack the knowledge you got all this athleticism. And then right in your prime they kind of equal out. And then you lose the athleticism but [the knowledge] is real high right now," he said. "I still want to win a championship. As much as I want to give, I want to contribute to putting one [ring] on my finger. It's a win-win for everybody."


Stack played 30 games for the Hawks and helped them get to the postseason for the fifth straight season (Getty Images).

Stack played in 30 games for the Hawks during the shortened season and averaged 3.6 points in 9.1 minutes per game. He was also chosen to replace his injured teammate Joe Johnson at the All-Star Game's Shooting Stars Competition.

The season in Atlanta fueled Jerry and proved to him that he still had plenty left in the tank, so while many may thought that Stack might retire following the 2011-12 season, he was not ready to put away his jersey.

During the offseason, Stack reached out to Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson to talk about potentially getting into coaching once his playing career was over. Out of that conversation came an offer for Jerry to join the Nets in their move to Brooklyn.


"I just reached out more to Avery about coaching, the next phase of my career, and to pick his brain about that," Stack said. "He was great. He said to look at this as an opportunity to still play and to broaden my base for coaching."


Stack joins the Nets as something of a player/coach, but expects to contribute on the court (Getty Images)

On July 11, 2012, he signed a one-year deal with the Nets. Johnson calls him a player coach and Stack jokes that he's a "modern-day Bill Russell" but he knows he has some value to Brooklyn both on and off the court as a leader and seasoned veteran that can take advantage of opportunities.

 
"I still feel like I can get out on the floor, stretch the floor, hit a couple open 3s.With the guys they have there's going to be a few available," he said. "There's not gonna be a shortage of guys ready to knock down open shots when they're getting so much attention. So hopefully I can still do that a little bit and be a veteran in the locker room." 

This season, Stack will become the first athlete to wear the number 42 in Brooklyn since Jackie Robinson played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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