Ever since I can remember, starting when I covered Jason Terry and the Arizona Wildcats for The Arizona Daily Star from 1996-98, Terry was never the cookie-cutter type.
Terry did things his way, built his own mode, and said whatever was on his mind.
Sleeping with his Arizona uniform and those knee-high “CATS” socks the night before games became legendary.
I remember during Arizona’s two-week trip to Australia in 1997, a couple of months after winning the national title, Terry was one of the more vocal players about wanting to head back home early. Lute Olson, who valued the foreign tours when he coached, would have none of that.
When I was within earshot during the trip, Terry said he hoped he never had to play professionally in Australia. He didn’t like it there and made that obvious in one of the player postcards he delivered to me to print in the newspaper. This came after Olson told the Wildcats to forget about leaving. Terry stuck to his opinion no matter what the Hall of Fame coach thought.
Terry had nothing to worry about playing as a pro in Australia. He became a national player of the year as a senior in 1998-99. He completed his 15th year in the NBA this season, albeit marred by a knee injury that limited him to 35 games, all with Brooklyn before he was traded to Sacramento on July 12.
“I’m down towards the end, and hopefully God-willing I’ll play three to four more years,” Terry said Thursday in an interview with Doug Gottlieb on CBS Sports Radio.
That would put him at 19 years in the league if a team employs him four years down the road. He would be 40.
That’s a long road for Terry, nicknamed “JET” because of his initials from Jason Eugene Terry. He has remained in flight in his career, never grounded, despite an impoverished upbringing in Seattle that included troubled times and tragedy. For most of his career, he played the sixth-man role at Arizona and the NBA.
Terry never gave up on his college education despite leaving Arizona 15 years ago. Last week, he earned his degree in Social Behavior and Human Understanding at Arizona, a school that has yet to retire his No. 31 because he received illegal benefits from an agent his senior season.
The Pac-12 presidents must vote for Terry to receive that honor. Perhaps now that Terry has earned a degree — and he long ago repaid the school what the agent gave him — he will get his just due and have his number retired.
What matters most to Terry now is earning his degree and serving as a role model for his four daughters.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for myself and for my family,” Terry told Gottlieb. “I’m not the first graduate out of my family but it was a promise that I made to my mother once I accepted a scholarship to the University of Arizona.
“It took me 19 years, but I finally completed the task and was able to do so in front of my four younger daughters which set a mark and a precedent for them (and for me) to say, ‘Hey look, you graduate from high school, you have another step. If your dad can do it, you can do it also. When you’re done with high school, I’d love for you to go to college and accomplish the same thing.'”
On the evening of his graduation last week, Terry Tweeted a photo of him wearing those popular knee-high “CATS” socks.
“You know I’m always superstitious and the ‘CATS’ socks is something that I did in college and it was a tribute to not only to my coach, Lute Olson, who gave me those ‘CATS’ socks when I first stepped on campus, but to all of the Wildcat supporters who supported me along the way,” Terry told Gottlieb.
The topic turned to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his racial comments that have rocked the NBA in the last month.
Terry, being the non-conformist that he is, took a different stance about Sterling than other NBA players. LeBron James and Magic Johnson, two of the game’s most successful and popular personalities, each commented last week that players will boycott the NBA if Sterling is still the Clippers’ owner next season.
James indicated he will not play if that is the case.
“It’s strange,” Terry told Gottlieb. “It’s a slippery slope. Everybody was brought up differently. People’s upbringings also kind of have an impact on how they feel. We don’t know how Donald Sterling was brought up in his household when he grew up. There’s obviously a reason why he said it.
“Did it offend a lot of people? Yes. (It) was very offensive, but again, it’s how he feels. Can you make him feel a different way? I don’t think so. Every individual has a right to an opinion. That was his and he made it known publicly.”
Gottlieb pointed out that Sterling actually did not say his opinion publicly and that it was recorded by his girlfriend V. Stiviano in a private conversation.
“In a court of law, you can’t record somebody’s private conversation and make it public,” Terry told Gottlieb. “I mean that’s just illegal, right? Am I correct?”
“For me, being in this league 15 years is an honor and a privilege,” Terry continued. “Are you really going to let what one person does dictate what you do, and what you’ve worked so hard for, the rest of your life? Let’s say the Clippers are the only team in the league, are you going to feel the same way? I think that’s an extreme.
“‘We’re not going to play next year.’ … OK, I get it. I like the idea that you flipped your jersey. You know, when they flipped their shirts inside-out and then threw them in the middle? When they went out, they still had the ‘Clippers’ on front of their jersey or ‘Los Angeles Clippers’, whatever, so what if any impact did that have? I don’t know.”
“I don’t know, man. I think at the end of the day, it’s just basketball and I think that in the history of the United States, there are a lot of people who are racist and share those views, some openly, some privately, and that’s just the way they feel. I think you must continue to go on and live your life according to your morals and your values. If somebody doesn’t like you or like what you stand for, hey, the hell with them.” — Jason Terry while commenting on the Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio Thursday
In response to Sterling’s comments, Terry also told Gottlieb: “What about the crazy old men that run the government?”
“I don’t know, man. I think at the end of the day, it’s just basketball and I think that in the history of the United States, there are a lot of people who are racist and share those views, some openly, some privately, and that’s just the way they feel. I think you must continue to go on and live your life according to your morals and your values. If somebody doesn’t like you or like what you stand for, hey, the hell with them.
“I mean, you don’t have to deal with them. Obviously, if it’s an employer and you’re running into contact with this guy every day like for me, it was Mark Cuban. I saw him every day. He was in and out of the locker room, never said a racist word to me or anybody around me while I was present. Now, did he do it in private, who knows? But it never was done. I love the guy. He’s a great, great owner and he’ll always have a lasting impact on my life.”
Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, was involved with his own controversy Thursday when he said, “I know I’m prejudiced and bigoted in a lot of different ways,” in an interview with Inc. magazine at a business conference in Nashville, Tenn.
“I wasn’t really offended at all,” Terry told Gottlieb about Cuban’s comments. “I thought he was trying to do what Mark always does, and get a reaction and cause some controversy and get people talking about not only him but a topic.”
Terry can be described in the same manner. He says what’s on his mind and has always been that way.