While known more in the present day for his work in the broadcast booth, Mark Jackson‘s NBA career was pretty productive. A traditional point guard, the Knicks selected him with the 18th overall pick in 1987. Little did they know the impact he’d go on to have for the franchise over the first five seasons of his career
While most rookies were still finding their footing, Jackson’s acclimation to the NBA was quicker having spent four years at St. John’s University. Due to that fact, he managed to put together a terrific rookie season, one that stands out among the others in NBA history.
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He averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Those numbers were enough to earn him NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
Jackson would become the only non-lottery player ever to claim the award for nearly 30 years until second-round pick Malcolm Brogdon won it in 2016-17 with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The combination of both Jackson and center Patrick Ewing set the Knicks up for the future. Ewing had won NBA Rookie of the Year two seasons prior and was complimented nicely by a floor general who loved to get others involved.
That the two award winners took vastly different paths to the NBA — Ewing was a college phenom and No. 1 overall pick — is an interesting tidbit that alludes to the sheer unpredictability of the NBA Draft.
Jackson ranks fourth all-time in assists and helped the Knicks to five straight playoff appearances upon being drafted after a three-year absence from the postseason. Those accomplishments are to be expected from a top draft pick, not so much a lottery selection who helped elevate his team back to relevancy.