I don’t think there are enough gangstas in the world to assess Stephen Jackson. Omar could use all the dudes from The Sopranos, GoodFellas, Menace II Society, The Untouchables, and all of the guys on Death Row Records from 1996 including Suge Knight and STILL come up short. Way short.

It’s hard to gangsta-quantify the L, but I put “Whoo!” up there in the top five—along with Zach Randolph, Ron Artest and Marquis Daniels (leaving one spot open for the thug of the week—Robert Swift?). (And given that Daniels and Jackson are Pacers,  Artest was, and Zach is from Indy, should someone be checking the water?) Even before he decided to set off the shootout at Club Rio (remind me not to go there), Jax was always a little outside the NBA box. He followed a circuitous route to the L following an All-American high school career at Lincoln (Port Arthur, TX) and Oak Hill. He played pro ball in Australia and Venezuela, the DR and the CBA, before finally breaking in with the Nets in 2001. After years of living from paycheck to paycheck, he spent his NBA dollars on essentials like diamond and platinum fronts and out-there suits.

His game, though, that was never really in question. He bounced from team-to-team before landing with the Pacers, but it was mostly from GOOD team to good team—the Nets, the Spurs, the (um) Hawks. His teammates included Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan and Reggie Miller, good guys all. He had plenty of wings to be taken under.

But given his long and winding path to the L—one which he traversed on his own—Jax came with a major dose of self-sufficiency. He made it on his own terms, and dammit, that’s how he was gonna do now that he was here, whether than meant trading his mouthpiece for his custom fronts right at the end of the game, or, say, defending a teammate by running into the stands like Mike Tyson circa 1986.

And now comes the Club Rio story—a 3 a.m. strip club dispute that spills outside, and ends with Jax getting hit by a car and firing five shots into the air from his (legal) 9mm. No one is seriously hurt or killed (thank God), but that’s about the only positive. The Pacers look bad (again) and Reggie Miller comes out of the woodwork to call out his former teammates.

Now, Reggie and I never really saw eye-to-eye when he was playing—he pretty much hated SLAM, and we pretty much hated him (tempered somewhat with grudging admiration for his ridiculous practice habits)—but this time, I agree with him 100 percent. I don’t care whose fault the brawl was, Jax was at fault for putting himself in that situation to begin with. And, as one of the Pacer’s vets, he has a little more responsibilty to his younger teammates to set a good example. Reggie “Out Shooting Three Hours Before Game Time” Miller knows that all too well. You wouldn’t have caught him popping off rounds outside a strip club at 3 a.m. Hell, that’s a situation that Artest himself probably would have avoided. (Michael Jordan might have been there, but he would have been in a back room with 18 blondes and Charles Oakley.)
Instead, Jax was there with teammates Daniels (surprise!), Jamaal Tinsley and Jimmie Hunter, spending some quality time with the ladies. Which, in itself isn’t a crime or anything, just a tremendously bad judgement call. Firing the shots into the air—well, maybe that wasn’t a crime either, but it probably should be. Five shots? Five? Just to warn somebody off? You’d think one would have done the trick. I’d only need to hear one, that’s for sure.
Anyway, no one got seriously hurt or killed—this time. But you had three high-profile athletes (sorry Jimmie, even I barely know who YOU are) out at 3 a.m. with guns (all legal, but still) in a tense situation. Call me a killjoy, but maybe the best thing to do is to stay out of situations like that in the first place. Think!