Coming into the 2021-2022 season, the prospects of the Clippers season were uncertain as their five-time NBA all-star forward Kawhi Leonard was rehabbing an ACL tear in his right knee with no timetable to return. Yet even despite Leonard’s injury midway through the playoffs last season, the Clippers managed to clinch their first Western Conference Finals berth in franchise history, which can be credited to the emergence of Reggie Jackson. In the playoffs last season, Jackson averaged 17.8 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds in over the Clippers 19 postseason games.
Already without one of their superstars in Leonard, the Clippers were devastated by the news that seven-time NBA all-star guard Paul George would miss the majority of the season with a torn UCL in his right elbow. Now more than ever, the Clippers would have to embrace the “next man up” mentality as they would have to endure the season without either of their franchise players. Sure enough, Reggie Jackson stepped up big time in the absence of Leonard and George, averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds in the regular season.
With his play Jackson quickly became a franchise fan-favorite over the course of the season, having several signature moments including two-game winners against Orlando (12/11) and the Lakers (2/3) and ultimately carrying the team to a 42-win season. Throughout the season, Clipper fans filled Crypto.com Arena with chants of “RE-GGIE” as an acknowledgement to his stellar play. Beyond his on-court performances, Jackson made an effort to interact with the Clipper fan base, whether it be giving a high-five to every single fan around the tunnel before every game, singing autographs, or even giving out his game-worn jerseys and sneakers.
When asked about his relationship with the Clipper fans, Jackson replied,”This fan base gives my teammates and me the confidence to dig deep and keep going. They support and believe in me, and knowing they have my back lets me focus on the game I love. Thank you Clipper Nation for reminding me why I play. It’s for you”
In his time in LA, Jackson’s leadership has helped develop a foundation and a culture that is essential for any contending team. Luke Kennard, Jackson’s teammate in Detroit and now on the Clippers, said,”He always has a smile on his face.” and “He always brings energy… You always know when Reggie is in the building and it always gets us going… He’s been our leader all year.”
With the emergence of Reggie Jackson, a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and with one of the deepest rosters, the Clippers will be a powerhouse in the Western Conference and will be surefire contenders for a title next season.