Reggie Jackson wasn't trying to give his childhood teacher a hard time or be disobedient. He was being real—but doing so was getting him in real trouble on his assignment.
"I definitely remember in second grade that our teacher told us to write down what our dreams were," the Detroit Pistons guard recalls. "When she saw that mine was to make it to the NBA, she said I couldn't, and that I needed a Plan B. I told her I don't make Plan Bs."
Jackson says he dreamed of being a pro baller since he was 4 years old. For him, the NBA was the only place he ever wanted to be. The product of a military family—he was born to American parents in Italy, where his father served at an Air Force base—he understood the value of sacrifice and hard work. So from an early age, Jackson set out to achieve his dream by working harder than anyone.
"I always tried to be the first one up," Jackson says. "First one in, last one out. That's always been my approach."
After his family returned to the U.S., Jackson would awake early in the morning before school and train at a nearby YMCA. His efforts paid off when he reached General William J. Palmer High School in Colorado Springs. There, he played well enough to be ranked one of the top 30 shooting guards in the country, and he ultimately won a scholarship to attend school and play basketball for Boston College
. He kept up his hard work all the way.
"I was doing everything it took to try and make [my] dream a reality," Jackson says.
Jackson needed that fuel even after he achieved his childhood dream. Following his junior season at Boston College, he was drafted 24th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2011 NBA Draft. But that wasn't the "roll the credits" happy ending you might expect. In OKC, he was deep on a depth chart topped by Russell Westbrook. He was on the court for an average of only 11 minutes per game that first year. He spent some time on the Thunder's D-League squad and didn't play in any of the Thunder's playoff matchups. Still, he was not dissuaded.
"Every time someone doubts me, I try to find a way to prove them wrong," Jackson says. "It motivates me, lights the fire in me to work harder."
Just as he did as a kid, Jackson set out to improve himself, spending even more time working on his game. And again, his efforts paid off. Both his playing time and production on court both increased during his second year in the league. When Westbrook went down with an injury during the playoffs, he took over the starting role and averaged more than 15 points per game
throughout the rest of the Thunder's run.
In the years since, Jackson moved on from the Thunder to become a starter for an emerging Detroit Pistons team. Jackson and his teammates defied expectations last season, playing well enough to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs, where they displayed true grit against the eventual NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
After a tough workout at ProActive Sports Performance in Westlake Village, California this off-season, Jackson told STACK that his next goal is to help push the Pistons to even loftier heights.
"God willing, I stay healthy and be placed in the right position," he said. "I still have bigger dreams. I have more to accomplish."
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