Stackhouse still going strong after all these years

IN 1995 Seinfeld was big on TV, Pete Sampras was the best tennis player in the world and Jerry Stackhouse was taken with the third pick in the NBA Draft.

Only one of those three is still a regular star on the big stage and that's the Jerry from North Carolina who continues to play in the NBA. Since June 28, 1995, Stackhouse has been performing in the NBA, going from brash youngster to one of the leading scorers then moving down through the ranks to his current role as a reserve guard for the Brooklyn Nets.

The 38-year-old is in his 18th season and doesn't see the end coming any time soon. In fact he still loves both the competition of playing in the NBA and the challenge of remaining fit enough and strong enough to match it with players who weren't even in school when he first played for Philadelphia 76ers.

Stackhouse said the key to his longevity was staying fit and continuing to relish each match. "It comes down to wanting to compete and just wanting to play," he said. "In the summertime not taking too much time off, I think that is kinda the key because sometimes guys take too much time off and it get harder each year to get your motor going again to get through the grind of getting yourself in professional sports shape.

"The less time you take away from your craft the more chance you have of withstanding and being able to play for a long time."

Stackhouse also lists himself as a sucker for television infomercials, buying countless training aides or fitness devices. "My wife hates it because they clutter up the house," he joked. "If I see something on one of those gimmicks on TV that can give me a little edge than I try it out. Part of it is that when you do something and it starts getting old then you can jump on something fresh and it stays fun."

While fitness is one part of playing 18 seasons of professional basketball, Stackhouse has also been able to reduce his role with humility dropping back from a superstar to a veteran role player as he has aged. Stackhouse was a star rookie with the 76ers in 1995 and became a superstar with Detroit, winning two All-star selections in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 and averaging a career best 29.8 points per game, second in the league in 2000-2001.

In past years Stackhouse took on a series of support roles with Milwaukee, Atlanta and Miami before landing with the Nets this season where he has become a valuable bench scorer, making key shots in several wins.

Stackhouse used a skiing metaphor to describe the importance of embracing new roles.

"You come into the league as a hot-shot rookie and work your way up to becoming an all-star," he said. "Then after that you just slide down that other side of the mountain but some guys can't handle that and just fall off. But you can slide down that mountain and find roles that suit you; I've been able to do that and find roles which bring something to the team late in my career."

He admits the idea of playing near 20 years in the top league was never a goal of his early in his career. "If you had asked me as a 20-year-old if I would still be in the NBA today; I'd have said no," Stackhouse said. "At that time having a 12-, 13-year career was a long career so I've beat the odds a little bit but I still enjoy it, man.

"More than anything else I just love being on the basketball court, it's all I've been doing for half my life, more than half my life actually."

Stackhouse considered leaving the league in past seasons as his roles with various teams diminished, but his time with the Nets has boosted up his self belief as shown by his season high 18-point outing against Boston in late November. Stackhouse still enjoys a keen band of supporters around the NBA with several fans finding him on Twitter and letting him know he is still loved.

"A few people sent me pictures of them in my old jerseys," he said. "They talk about the good old days in Philly, Detroit or even Dallas where I had a big fan base. The other week we were in Milwaukee and even though I only played half a year there people were still really receptive to me."

When the time does come when Stackhouse can't keep up with his younger counterparts he hopes to coach or work in broadcasting and has already "dabbled" in the latter with a few TV stints. "With my experiences I'd like to getting into the coaching side of the NBA but I'm not opposed to coaching college ball either," he said. "Whatever I do I will be trying to make that transition as seamless as possible."

It's worth noting Stackhouse isn't the only member of the class of '95 still in the NBA with Kevin Garnett (No.5 to Minnesota), Rasheed Wallace (No.4 to Washington) and Kurt Thomas (No.11 Milwaukee) all still performing although Wallace did retire for a few seasons before coming back with New York this season.

This story Stackhouse still going strong after all these years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.