Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Even young, Jackie was a potential baller.
Going through my 1996-97 American Basketball League media guide, I was surprised to find the name of Jackie Joyner-Kersee as a player for the Richmond Rage.
For those of you who know who Jackie Joyner-Kersee is, this might be a surprising fact. It was to me. What the hell was Jackie Joyner-Kersee doing playing on an ABL team?
As it turns out, Joyner-Kersee was a good basketball player. She was probably one of the best all-around athletes there was in women's sports, excelling in track, volleyball, basketball - Jackie was another Babe Zaharias. She put all of her eggs in one basket, which was track.
As for her basketball career, Joyner-Kersee led her team to a state championship. She played basketball for UCLA and scored more than 1,000 points in her career and was named one of the 15 Greatest Players in UCLA basketball.
The problem was that Jackie Joyner-Kersee was excelling at basketball in the early 1980s. “I played four years at UCLA but I didn't think (women's) basketball was going anyplace at the time" is a direct quote from Joyner-Kersee herself.
By the time she tried playing basketball in 1996 for the Rage, she was 34 years old. Asked how she did, she said "Not great, I was too old." Having devoted her career to track and field, she was just too far behind to catch up. When she first played in a competitive game for the Rage, she hadn't played competitively in 11 years.
According to the New York Times, nerves and asthma were the benchmarks of her short lived pro basketball career. She was to the Rage what Michael Jordan was to baseball. She was forced to leave in the middle of the season because of injuries.
Ah, what might have been if Jackie Joyner-Kersee has been just a little younger. Ah, what might have been if Lisa Leslie had signed with the Richmond Rage as their #1 draft pick. Ah...what might have been.