Josh Jackson's subtle statement at Lakers workout a perfect representation of his competitive grit


None by Los Angeles Lakers

I love the month leading up to the NBA Draft, largely because of two things: 1. It gives us plenty of stories to track and follow during the dog days of summer. And 2. I enjoy keeping tabs on all draft rumors and trade talks that surfac up and down the draft board because the NBA, unlike any other professional sport, is a game that can be impacted by the addition of a single player.

Add the right guy, at a position of need, and a team that missed the playoffs a year earlier could jump into the mix right away.

Add the right face to a struggling franchise and an entire city and fan base could suddenly be energized.

Whether this year’s draft — 6 p.m. Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. — has those types of players or not remains to be seen. Markelle Fultz could be one. And it sure seems like Philadelphia is counting on that. Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson could join him.

And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that there’s a Manu Ginobli or Draymond Green waiting in the second round, which is another part of the annual draft experience that makes for compelling stories.

For most KU fans, the stories worth reading only go as far as the Kansas prospects in each draft. Luckily, Bill Self has done a masterful job of putting KU players in the pros of late, delivering lottery talent in seven of the past 10 years, including a five-year streak from 2010-14.

The Jayhawks have been shut out of the lottery in each of the past two drafts — No. 15 overall pick Kelly Oubre came oh-so-close in 2015, missing lottery status by one spot — but KU will climb back in this year, making it eight of the last 11 years, when Josh Jackson is drafted, perhaps as high as second or third.

Frank Mason III also figures to be drafted this week, but it’s Jackson that we’re here to talk about today because one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks to cover recently delivered one of my favorite all-time draft moments and I’m not sure everybody picked up on it.

Pegged as a likely Top 3 pick for months, Jackson skipped the pre-draft combine in Chicago in May and limited the teams with which he worked out individually to just a couple because it’s hard to imagine him falling out of the Top 5.

One of those teams in the Top 5 is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently run by former Michigan State & Lakers star Magic Johnson.

Magic loves Jackson. He loved him in high school, did everything in his power to convince him to go to Michigan State and has had nothing but good things to say about the Detroit native every time he’s been asked.

I know there’ll be a ton of pressure on the Lakers to pick Ball at No. 2, but there are plenty of people out there who think Jackson will end up in L.A.

I don’t blame them. Here’s why:

A couple of weeks ago, when Jackson showed up to his workout with the Lakers, he did so wearing a Kansas T-Shirt.

Big deal, right? I’m sure he’s got a hundred KU shirts, if not more, and it would make sense for him to slap one on to represent the program that helped put him in the position of being a Top 5 draft pick.


But there was something about this particular shirt that caught my eye. Rather than simply saying Kansas basketball or Rock Chalk or any other combination of the most common words you see splattered on KU gear around here, Jackson chose one that said, “NCAA Men’s Sweet 16” and featured the year and a small Jayhawk at the bottom.

Again, big deal, right?

Actually, it was. As you’ll recall, it was Johnson’s Michigan State team that Jackson and the Jayhawks defeated to reach the Sweet 16. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Jackson chose it on purpose.

That’s just the kind of cut-throat competitor he is. Rather than being in awe of Johnson and bowing at his feet, thanking him for the mere opportunity to even show him his basketball abilities, Jackson showed up with some swagger and an edge, the kind that a guy like Johnson would probably love to have on his team.

As subtle as the gesture was, I would bet good money that Magic picked up on it.

If he did, and if the Lakers were at all actually considering taking Jackson at No. 2, a moment like that certainly could go a long way toward making the decision final.

That’s a bold move and a simple declaration from Jackson to Johnson that says, “I’m a bad man and you want me on your team.”

Time will tell if that happens.


Freddie Garza 10 months, 1 week ago

I honestly don't see what is so special about Markelle Fultz. Not seeing it.

Suzi Marshall 10 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for pointing out that out about Jackson's shirt. I completely missed that poignant gem. Absolutely no doubt that shirt was deliberate. Jackson has all good options. KU fans would have been ecstatic to see him go to Philly but now that options seems dead. The other options of LA, Boston and even Phx all have excellent upsides with great auxiliary stories. In the wake of the ESPN 30-30 story, the NBA has a vested interest for the Boston-LA rivalry to resume. Jackson, IMO, is the most dynamic and best player in the draft who would thrive in that kind of a competitive environment. If LA passes on Jackson and then Boston picks him up, that would be a huge motivation and great story for him when those two franchises resume their NBA Finals rivalry. Then Boston would pick Ball to add to the story. Could it be possible the NBA has staged all this drama?

John Fitzgerald 10 months, 1 week ago

The mock draft "experts" have Jackson falling to 5 behind Tatum and Fox. I'm assuming they have a vested interest in Puke and Contucky. Either way, wherever Jackson ends up he'll prove to be the best prospect on the board.

Suzi Marshall 10 months, 1 week ago

I don't see many mock draft with Jackson going 5th. Draft Express, the one most closely followed, has Jackson going 4th to PHX. NBADraft has him going 3rd to Boston. If both LA and Boston pass on Jackson, PHX provides a great platform for Jackson to excel to extract vengeance on LA, Boston and the NBA. If Jackson went to PHX, he'd love beating LA in the West Finals to advance to play Boston in the finals!

Harlan Hobbs 10 months, 1 week ago

Chad Ford of ESPN has Fultz at #1, Ball at #2, and Josh at #3 to the Celtics. Apparently, the 76'ers are intent on Fultz since they traded up to get him. Interesting comment from Danny Ainge is that he thinks the player they would have chosen first may still be available at #3. That is a direct reference to Josh in my opinion.

The bottom line is that, as Matt and Suzi say, Josh is the guy that I would want on my team for the long run. He has the most overall talent, and he has that competitive fire that raises him up to a higher level.

Andy Tweedy 10 months, 1 week ago

Man, I've been around the wrong teenagers. Most of the ones I'm around wouldn't even know Magic went to MSU, remembered that KU played them, or put two and two together. If he really did do that on purpose, that's pretty non-teenage behavior from what I've seen. The kid on our HS soccer team won the biggest game of the year in a shootout and when he turned around and saw the rest of the team coming towards him, it was only then that he realized that was the winner!

Matt Tait 10 months, 1 week ago

Funny stuff. Josh was no doubt aware of Magic having gone to Michigan State because the Spartans used the legendary Laker as part of their recruiting pitch to Jackson.

Having said that, Jackson's not exactly what I would call a normal teenager these days. Wise (and driven) beyond his years.

Dirk Medema 10 months, 1 week ago

It's funny to read Phx & LA for the western finals. There's a crew to the north that has elite players playing for millions less than role players in order to keep the team together. Got a feeling they'll be dominating for a while.

John Fitzgerald 10 months, 1 week ago

After the Lakers and Nets trade it's very clear the Lakers are going with Ball. The Celtics will likely go with Tatum, mainly because Jackson turned down ANOTHER workout with them on Tuesday. I'm guessing his agent has steared him away from them because he wouldn't have as much playing time available. This likely means he'll be a Sun or a King, which isn't what I was hoping for. Maybe Magic wasn't so appreciative of the sweet sixteen shirt? Ugh... so much drama in the NBA Draft.

Freddie Garza 10 months, 1 week ago

Three "B's":

  1. Fultz - BUST
  2. Ball - BAGGAGE

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