CINCINNATI - In the wake of the Miami Heat's successful defense of their NBA Championship, pardon us if our pride is showing at 9 On Your Side Sports. While we can boast of many former interns who've gone on to great things in their chosen branch of broadcasting, none has had a better recent run than Jason Todd Jackson.
As TV host and sideline reporter for the Heat, providing pre-game, half-time and post-game insights into the burgeoning basketball dynasty, he's had a front row seat to history, with a side of bling. The Princeton High School and Bowling Green University graduate has three Championship rings to show for his nearly seven years in the role. For a guy who doesn't have to run gassers, he might have the best job in sports. He admitted as much during a recent online chat.
Jason Jackson - My six and a half year stint as an anchor at ESPN (1995-2002) was instrumental to my skill set, but the opportunity with the Heat changed everything from my preparedness (no Teleprompter) to my view of the professional athlete as a human being plus everything in between. Most importantly, the job affords me anywhere from three to six months off. That time coincides with the end of the school year and allows for great family time. As I say, I am gone half the time - half the time - with this job, so any time to be with my wife and family is golden.
DJ - Not being a play-by-play guy but rather team's TV host, are you embraced more thoroughly by the players?
JJ - Without question. The play by play announcer has the lead roll. I have a unique hybrid of hosting and reporting so I am around the players and head coach three times a day every game day (morning shoot-around, pre-game media availability and post game) and once every practice day from training camp thru the regular and post season. That time spent well can forge relationship that lead to a trust that enhance the job via trust, which leads to inside information or exclusive content. Our organization is very family oriented as well. It can be argued that my sons have a better relationship with Heat President Pat Riley or many of our star players due to their relationships with kids and families in the Heat Family Room (where pre-game meals and child care is provided for players and team officials)
DJ - This title was far from a foregone conclusion wasn't it? What was the pivotal moment? Play? Basket?
JJ - The shot is still ringing in the ears from the end of regulation in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. LeBron James misses a three needed to tie late in the game. Chris Bosh grabs the offensive rebound of his life and gets it to Ray Allen, the NBA's greatest shooter ever, who slide steps behind the line and nails the three that sent the game to overtime - leading to the Heat victory
DJ - Is LeBron the devil incarnate that Cavs' fans would have many believe? My one and only interaction with him (with Brooks J. Meriwether) leads me to believe he is a pretty solid cat.
JJ - I have run into a series of professional athletes who do not love their job. They have been doing it a long time and it is a great living but it comes off as a drag to them. James is the polar opposite. If he is playing with his sons in the driveway, a pick up game in Akron, a Heat shoot around, game or postseason game, James loves playing. Anywhere. Anytime. He has a relentless spirit to get better each season, and his teammates follow suit. More importantly his charitable foundation is making a true education and life choices difference. He wants nothing more than to up life these young people out of their current situation and place them on a track to success and achievement academically.
DJ - Do you get championship rings?
JJ - I am a full time employee of the Miami Heat so yes, I have been awarded a ring. The one I will receive in the fall will be my third as I joined the team a season before the 2006 Championship. There tend to be several tiers of the size of the rings. I usually get ring 3 of 6 levels of ring. Not too shabby
DJ - And to think it all started on Chester Road.
JJ - I was so blessed to have Princeton Instructional Television as a part of my high school offerings. During my junior year at Princeton High School, I was bitten by the bug and never turned back. To be 16 and work on editing and on air performance allowed me to get ahead of the game and set the foundation for my career.