TSFJ's Q&A Session with ESPN's Scoop Jackson


Dash, capital E, lowercase D, period. It's the way that I've signed off on every letter, card, e-mail, article and almost any other form of communication. I never acutely remembered where I picked it up from, but I always remember seeing it as a teenager. Now being of sound mind as an adult, being an editor of this small bastion of hope that we call a sports and social commodity online publication known as The Sportsfan Journal, its all come full circle.

It's how the editor of SLAM Magazine signed off on every "Letter to the Editor" in the print publication. This is how I got introduced to Robert "Scoop" Jackson.

Through chance and circumstance, I've been able to form a penpal version of a relationship with Scoop. (The power of e-mail is real.) I've actually been meaning to interview Scoop for almost a year, but schedule conflicts and other issues prevented it. Scoop was gracious enough to take the questions of Bryan Crawford, Justin Tinsley and yours truly and give us an honest perspective on basketball, the media and the athletes we cover. Enjoy and discuss in the comments. Thanks.

TSFJ: Why have you not joined the Twitter Revolution?

Scoop: Man... (laugh). Real talk -- and I say this with no disrespect to anyone on or following someone one Twitter -- but there’s something narcissistically wrong with feeling the need to let the world know everything you are doing in that moment and everything on your mind. My life is not that important, really. Plus, I really don’t have the time. Not the time to knock out 140 characters, but the time to engage the way Twitter “demands” we engage  in it. I try to stay away from things that breed addictive behavior: golf, gambling, meth, crack, Facebook, Twitter (laugh). I have a FB page for ESPN purposes only. I had to create a page, or I think they were going to fire me (laugh). Plus, I’m not trying to have a Roland Martin moment where I say something stupid or unintentional that gives “people” the opportunity to misinterpret, then use it against me; something I’d have to apologize for. I know me. I’d eventually tweet something I’d later regret. I'm trying to be smarter than that.

TSFJ: Will the historians remember this 2011-12 NBA season like they did the 1998-99 strike-shortened season?

Scoop: Not exactly, even though there are some eerie similarities: The Knicks being the most talked about team (and making it to the Finals) and Latrell Sprewell Fever taking over NY the way (but not to the degree) Jeremy Lin seems to be taking over the world. I think, more than anything, the historians probably won’t put an asterisk on this season the way they’ve seemed to do ’99. And I believe that because the teams that will meet in the conference finals (and the team that eventually wins it all) will be the same teams the “historians” believed at the beginning of the season predicted would be there and win it all. No one in ’99 thought San Antonio would be hoisting trophies. Later on, they proved how legit they were. But in ’99, everyone thought it was a fluke. I can’t see a “fluke” walking away with the chip this year.

TSFJ: Can we legitimately say Kobe Bryant was a better Laker than Magic Johnson, or is it still Magic without a shadow of a doubt?

Scoop: That’s a tough one. My wife is like the biggest Kobe fan in the world, and I asked her to answer it for me and she couldn’t.* My answer is Magic, for the record. I think Magic is still Top 5 all time, Kobe is Top 10. (But Kobe's not done yet)

TSFJ: How would you recommend fixing the NBA All-Star selection process, or is it fine like it is?

Scoop: I think for the most part it’s fine. The only thing I’d fix is limiting fans to one voting process apiece. That whole “vote early, vote often” theory most definitely applies to NBA All-Star voting as much as it does in Chicago politics. What I think would be smart though is for the League to extend the amount of players that are allowed to play. Like, for the All-Star game, the roster should be 15 instead of 12. Sorta like what the Academy did for Best Picture nominations. They increased it from five to ten last year, and nine this year. And speaking of the Oscars, how brilliant was David Stern for re-scheduling the All-Star festivities to be on the same night and basically (one hour difference) same time as the Academy Awards? He’s a such a genius.

TSFJ: If we've learned anything from LeBron's "decision" and Carmelo's court with New York, if you could give Dwight Howard some advice what would you tell him to do?

Scoop: Nothing. I think that way things are now and the negative way the players have been portrayed in these situations for doing what’s within the legal rights of their contractual agreement with the League has become a no-win situation for them. They can’t win. So do your thing. Keep doing what you are doing, because a the end of the day, the media and public are not going to like how you handled the situation. But a player like Lamar Odom -- not Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol who gave the Lakers NOTHING in the playoffs and in the series verses the Mavs when they got swept -- the sixth man of the year, gets unjustifiably shipped away and it’s cool, right? No media or public uproar? No one has a problem with how the Lakers “handled” or “managed” that situation, right?  That’s why I wouldn’t tell Dwight Howard to do anything different than what he’s doing. It’s so funny and hypocritical to me when people look at one side of player movements and transactions and say, “Well, that’s just part of the business.” But when a player takes control of his own destiny, the player’s wrong; like that’s not also a part of the business or that “the business” is a one-way street. And people wonder why William C. Rhoden titled his book, “Forty Million Dollar Slaves.”

TSFJ: There's been talk recently about Seattle getting another basketball team. How important is it to the league that the city gets another team since the way the Supersonics left has been one of league's blackest eyes for years now?

Scoop: I love Seattle, but to me, they had every chance in the world to keep that team and didn’t. So why should they be rewarded before other cities that have been clamoring to get an opportunity of an NBA franchise? I maybe in the minority here, but I think one of the best things that happened to the NBA was Seattle losing the Sonics and OKC doing what they couldn’t. They’ve become the model small market franchise in all of sports. And I don’t believe things would have played out the way they have had the squad stayed in Seattle. So I personally don’t look at the move as a black eye. I think it was a blessing in disguise.

TSFJ: The MLB or NFL do not have problems with "small market teams" winning championships and being mentioned amongst their league's best. Can the NBA ever escape their stigma with small market teams remaining championship-competitive, or is it just a fact that basketball people need to accept? Outside of OKC, of course.

Scoop: I’m not sure that they will be able to escape the stigma, because it’s one the owners will keep bringing up. And as long as the owners make it a point of contention, the media will follow suit and sell us on the importance of the issue. It’s not the tail wagging the dog; it’s the owner telling the dog to wag its tail and someone saying that the dog is happy, because its tail is wagging without mentioning that the dog is following an order (laugh).

Basically, I feel that the small market argument is a cover-up/diversion for owners not admitting and dealing with bad management. Here’s a general, non-specific example just to make a point: Minnesota HAD KG, Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell. With them, they made it to the Western Conference Finals. They decided to not re-sign Cassell and Spree and,eventually, they traded KG. Now they are going to “bitch” about not being able to compete, because they are in a smaller market and we are supposed to feel sorry for them or not hold them somewhat responsible for the situation the team found itself in over the last half decade? Now I’m not saying that the Timeberwolves are one of the teams that’s “complaining,” but they are a team the League uses as a small market that is being screwed over because of the way the system is set up. Again, I’m not saying it’s always the case, but I know TOTAL bs when i smell it.

TSFJ: You said that when Kevin Durant went and got his "Streetball World Tour" on during the lockout that it legitimized him. How much of an impact do you think that experience truly has and are there some other players that "need" the experience?

Scoop: That “cred” or legitimacy is only for barber shop/bar/basement conversation. But in the greater landscape of the game, those conversations hold weight and have meaning, because they will never disappear or be controlled. I remember we were having a conversation at my man’s shop here in Chi (Time Out At Shannon’s), and we were talking about who was the best player in the history of Chicago. One of the things that came up by damn-near everyone was how hard it was to give certain players props when there was no history of them coming through the city during the summer and ripping up tournaments or having a history of playing in the parks and making a name for themselves. That was a criteria that most of the guys took into heavy consideration when assessing a player’s overall resume. I’m not sure players need it or need the experience, but there is some legitimacy that comes from taking your game to the ‘hood and battling. It’s like an MC that only spits in the studio. He could be the coldest ever on the mic, but if he’s never been tested on the concrete...

TSFJ: Do you feel the NBA will ever again have players of the "Golden Era" caliber (ruthless competitors ready to rip your heart out), or are guys too friendly with one another and too nice to ever have that happen again.

Scoop: I’m not one to fall into that belief that the “these guys or this generation of players is too friendly” to be killers on the court or to be able to go through one another to get the chip. Derrick Rose, who is he “friendly” with? He and Russell Westbrook, for the first few years in the L, spent the summers together in LA training. They are friends. Do you really believe that either one of them will “let up” on the other if they met up in the Finals? Kevin Durant, who is he friends with? Everyone loves him, but do you think he won’t rip someone’s heart out on the court? CP3, he’s basically another Isiah. He’s going to LOSE friends by the end of his career trying to get that chip. Man, I can go through a list of players that I feel will totally outweigh the number of players people seem to use to make a point about being “too friendly.” Don’t get me wrong; I see where people are coming from saying something like that, but I don’t think it’s gotten to the point where it dictates the overall DNA of the League.

TSFJ: You wrote a piece earlier in the year that discusses how (black) athletes have the opportunity to shape the "consciousness of blacks living in America." Do you think we'll ever return to an era that previously existed in the 1960's?

Scoop: Nope. The climate is totally different and we, as a people, aren’t necessarily in a “survive or die” frame of mind. We are not battling from freedom in America anymore; we are battling for the excess of freedom. And, to me, that clouds consciousness.

TSFJ: What are your views on the role/importance of media and do you feel black journalists/bloggers have any sort of responsibility to "protect" the black athletes they cover?

Scoop: “Protect” is a strong word. I think as black reporters/journalists, we have a responsibility to create some sort of balance in the marketplace by telling stories that the mainstream media either decides not to tell or deems not important or significant enough to tell, and I feel we have a responsibility to not feel like we have apologize for who we are. Black athletes are not, nor have they been, (and this is true for white athletes) the samples by which our entire race should be judged. At the same time, black athletes have played a much larger role in our lives and existence here than white athletes have in theirs. From Muhammad Ali to Jackie Robinson to Curt Flood to Jim Brown to Jordan and Magic. So our heritage and history allows us to be “protective.” Because as far as I'm concerned, as blacks here in America, we owe them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *