When Stephen Jackson had his first stint with the San Antonio Spurs, he was forced to make a decision.
The San Antonio Spurs’ championship lineage started in 1999 when they won the NBA title in the strike-shortened season. This continued into the 2000’s, totaling five titles for the organization, all of which came under head coach Gregg Popovich.
For the 2002-03 team, Stephen Jackson played a significant role and contributed to the 2003 NBA championship. In the regular season, he averaged 11.8 points per game in 80 appearances. However, it wasn’t Jackson’s first year on the Spurs, as he played 23 games for them in the 2001-02 season.
Before that year started, Jackson met Popovich who laid out an ultimatum: if you want to play for a championship, stop smoking weed. This was revealed in an interview on Ryen Russillo’s ESPN radio show (h/t Yahoo!):
“I remember playing great, and after the last game, we’re just sitting there, and Pop was like, ‘I need to talk to you.’ He was like, ‘Jack, you had a great summer league, you’re playing well, I really want you on my team, but there’s only one way you’re going to make my team: During the season, you can’t smoke weed, Jack. You just can’t do it. I need you focused. I need you on your game, because you know we have a chance to win a championship, and I need you focused.’
“And once he told me that, I shut it down. I shut it down. The NBA was way more important than weed. Trust me.”
Jackson giving up weed led to his time on the Spurs for two seasons, getting that previously mentioned title. He parlayed that into a lengthy NBA career that spanned another 11 years, playing for the Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers.
From 2011-12, Jackson returned to the Spurs for a second stint. He mostly came off the bench, playing 76 games and starting 7 of them. This became the Oak Hill Academy product’s final two productive seasons, before going to the Clippers and playing just 9 more games.
Jackson’s willingness to listen to Popovich’s advice paid off and led to success. What do you remember the most of his time in San Antonio?