What is the Ultimate Legacy of Jerry Stackhouse?

| by Hoops Karma

Rikki Grooms continues her Legacy Friday series with Jerry Stackhouse. The series has already covered the careers of Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, and Tim Duncan. It will continue every other Friday through the entire 2010-11 season.

“If you can’t give me anything else, give me respect” – Minnie Stackhouse (Jerry's mother)

Respect is a common theme on Jerry Stackhouse’s website, in his life, and throughout his basketball career. The youngest of 11 children and son of a sanitation truck driver and a line cook/preacher, Stackhouse learned the value of hard work, education, and respect at an early age. It’s clear these lessons on the value of hard work and demanding respect have played a critical role in shaping the man and type of player Stackhouse has become. Whether in his choice to leave his friends behind to attend Oak Hill Academy because his pals were heading down a path that would lead to trouble, or deciding to attend the University of North Carolina, one of the most respected universities and basketball programs in the country, it is clear Jerry Stackhouse is all about respect.

Stackhouse developed into a player with no fear as he spent much of his career in the lane as a slashing, penetrating scorer. In his first two games as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995, Stackhouse exploded on the scene scoring 27 points against the Washington Bullets—the most by a rookie since 1988—and followed that with a 34-point performance against the Sacramento Kings. In his second season, he combined with rookie Allen Iverson to average 44 ppg for the Sixers. Scoring in bunches was what Stackhouse was known for early in his career, and he did it well. During the 2000-01 season while playing with the Detroit Pistons, Stackhouse once had a streak of 31 games during which he dropped 30 points or more 17 times, including three contests with over 40. During his second season with the Pistons, he went to the foul line 758 times, good for second best in the league. Later, Stackhouse combined with Michael Jordan to average 41 ppg for the Washington Wizards. Stackhouse could flat out score.

Even though Stackhouse was putting up huge offensive numbers, he was unable to will his teams to playoff success. It wasn’t until 2004, when Stackhouse was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, that he was on a consistent, winning squad. With the Mavs, his role would change and his scoring output decreased from a high of 29.8 ppg during the 2000-2001 season to 14.9 ppg in 2004-05, his first season with the team. His ppg continued to decrease in each of his five seasons with the Mavs, chiefly due to a glut of offensive talent on the team, including the awakening of Dirk Nowitzki. A player with a bigger ego and with less respect for himself and the game would have been unhappy taking a backseat at a stage in his career when we could have still been a star, even if it meant more success. Thankfully, this wasn't Stackhouse's way.

Early in his career, Stackhouse was compared to another former UNC baller and future teammate: Michael Jordan. The similarities were pretty on point: both players played at North Carolina, both players went #3 in the draft, both were listed at the same height (6-feet-6), they looked fairly similar in appearance and game, and both had a taller power forward from UNC drafted immediately after them in the #4 spot (in Jordan's case, it was Sam Perkins, and in Stackhouse's case, the player was Rasheed Wallace).

Stackhouse was able to do something the great Michael Jordan was never able to do: score more than 53 points in Chicago Stadium. Stackhouse drove and shot his way to 57 points with the Pistons on April 3, 2001, against the Bulls in a victory. He downed 21 of his 36 shots, including 4 triples, and completed 11 of 13 free throws.

As his career turned the corner towards its ending, Stackhouse spent half of last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and provided leadership to a young, talented team reinvigorated by Brandon Jennings' flash and coach Scott Skiles' emphasis on defense. As his legs have aged and his averages have dropped, he has found it hard to find a home in the NBA. In fact, Stackhouse is still looking for a team to bring his veteran leadership to next season. He, like many veterans with no team for the upcoming season, has mentioned a desire to play with the Miami Heat in hopes of winning the elusive NBA championship. But that call has yet to come.

Over his 15-year career, Stackhouse has been many things from scorer, to leader, to enforcer, but respect has been the one constant. There were instances over his career where he was involved in scuffles with other players over little more than Stackhouse demanding respect for himself and his teammates, but none bigger than when he went up against Shaquille O’Neal.

From his website: “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.”

In the name of respect for his team, Stackhouse took on the biggest name in the NBA and was rewarded with a one game suspension. But the message was clear, even if the Mavs did end up losing the series.

On a side note, if you have ever wondered who was responsible for starting the trend of players wearing leg sleeves, that would be Jerry Stackhouse. During the 2004-2005 season, Stackhouse began wearing compression stockings to help keep his legs warm and aid in blood circulation to his aging legs.

The legacy of Jerry Stackhouse can be summed up by 76ers' owner Howard Katz, who commented after drafting him in 1995 “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 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.”

No matter what anyone thought of Jerry Stackhouse or his game, his respect for himself, his teammates, and the sport has always been evident.