Mark Jackson starred as a high schooler in Brooklyn, teamed with Chris Mullin at St. John's, played with Patrick Ewing on the Knicks, meshed with Reggie Miller on the Pacers, coached Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors and currently broadcasts the NBA on ESPN. Speaking on behalf of the NBA, which opened All-Star voting presented by Verizon last Thursday, Jackson dishes on the Warriors, Mullin's role as St. John's head coach and potential first-time All-Stars such as Jackson's former pupil, Draymond Green.
ThePostGame: Do you get excited about All-Star voting or does fan voting annoy you?
MARK JACKSON: I get excited because I remember being a kid and getting as many ballots as I could and punching holes and voting for my favorite players, so I always think about that. As a former player and former coach, it's a time to celebrate the game and celebrate those players having tremendous years.
TPG: Who are those players you used to punch ballots for?
JACKSON: My favorite player as a kid was Earl Monroe, growing up rooting for the New York Knicks. From there, Magic Johnson, the best point guard that's ever played. Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, it's great players that I grew up watching and dreaming of playing against that I celebrated.
TPG: Do you have your starters picks yet for this year?
JACKSON: I do not. Obviously you have no-brainers, guys like LeBron [James] and Steph [Curry]. Certainly, those guys deserve it. Kevin Durant, to me, also does. I look at guys like Paul George, who's been an incredible story. We watched his potentially career-ending injury as he was representing the country, and we thought it was over. To see the season he's having and to see the way he's playing is what it's all about. It's a testament to him, his work ethic and the guy that I feel deserves to be there. I look at Kawhi Leonard, I look at Draymond Green and the special one is Kobe Bryant. He's a guy I feel it would only be fitting for him to be in the All-Star Game for us as players, coaches, fans and workers around the league to say thank you for what he's meant to the game and how he's impacted it for 20 years.
TPG: So you're a guy who believes in voting in players for legacy reasons? For example, Michael Jordan started in his final All-Star Game in 2003 (as a replacement for Vince Carter).
JACKSON: I'm not a fan of it for just anybody. When you're talking about one of the greatest in the game ... I remember watching Jordan in that game. I remember watching Magic. To me, it's only fitting, especially in today's game. The players who are playing tell you how much Kobe has meant to them. It's the perfect way to say thank you from the league, the players and the fans.
TPG: You mention Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard. Those are two guys who have not made the All-Star Game before. Who are some guys you think are having upstart seasons to get to their first All-Star Games?
JACKSON: Off the top of my head, when you look at Andre Drummond and the season he's having for the Detroit Pistons. He's put himself in the discussion for best big man in the game with the impact that he's having on the defensive end, the impact he's having rebounding the basketball. The Detroit Pistons are playing very good basketball. They're a playoff team, as we stand here in December.
It's good to see a guy like Kevin Love (who has played in three All-Star Games, but not last season's game) play how we've come accustomed to watching him play, with the Cleveland Cavaliers atop of the Eastern Conference. It's a good opportunity for a lot of fresh faces, but I think old reliable will put its stamp on the game when you look at Dirk [Nowitzki}, what he's doing and you look at Tim Duncan.
TPG: People probably ask you every day, every hour about the Warriors. When you look at the Warriors, do you feel like you left something on the table and couldn't produce or was it a matter of timing and it so happened you were gone right as the team was peaking?
JACKSON: I look at them like they're a great basketball team. They're the champs and they continue to play great basketball. They should continue to play great basketball. I'm not the story. They're the story.
TPG: Do you still talk to Stephen Curry and some of the other guys there?
JACKSON: I call a lot of their games, so I see a lot of those guys. I'll have a relationship with them for a long, long time. We've impacted each other on and off the floor, and I'm grateful for my time there. I think the world of those guys.
TPG: Have you caught a Chris Mullin-St. John's game in New York?
JACKSON: I live in California, so I have not caught a game in-person. I've seen them on TV and talked to Chris and he's a guy that impacted me. I love him like a brother. I'm proud of him. He's the right man for the job. Obviously, they're talented, but he will get more talent and I've got tremendous confidence in his ability to turn that program around. It's about the principals and the mentality and being an ideal place for recruits to come. He's doing that.
TPG: As an alum, what do you think it means for the program to bring in a fellow alum who embodies the university?
JACKSON: I can't speak on that as a whole. It's ideal, but it doesn't happen, for the most part, around the country. When you have an opportunity to get one of your own after struggling and trying to be relevant, when you have a chance to get the greatest player in your school's history to be a head coach and he's a class individual. He's a true professional and he's a Hall of Famer. It was a slam-dunk choice. It was a win-win. As an alum and as a friend, it was a perfect decision and great timing.
TPG: What do you remember about what Chris taught you about the game of basketball and also, as a person?
JACKSON: I played two years with him as a freshman and sophomore at St. John's and I also played against him in high school, so I watched him. Then when I got to St. John's, I've said this before, I don't make it to the pros without Chris Mullin. I was always a guy who was a gym rat. By playing with him, playing around him, I became a gym technician. I worked on stuff that was crucial in being successful in the game, rather than throwing it between my legs three times, behind my back and taking a shot. I actually became a scientist in the gym and he taught me. He's a guy I'm forever grateful for. I'll always feel like I owe him and he taught me a lot about the game of basketball.
TPG: Does he ever ask you for advice with this new team he has now?
JACKSON: He's a heck of a coach and he has a bright future ahead of him right now. We talk about things that friends talk about. We talk about our families and our loved ones. I was crazy about his parents and he was crazy about mine. We go that far back. We just celebrate our time together and the incredible moments we've experienced.
TPG: Going back to the All-Star Game, you played in Toronto. What do you think that atmosphere will be like for the game?
JACKSON: To me, it's a perfect place --- 65 years of All-Star Games and this is the first actual All-Star Game outside the United States. It's the perfect pick. I played there, I bought a house there. I lived there for almost a year. The fans are off the charts. They're passionate about it. Being from New York City, Toronto reminded me so much of New York.
TPG: Last week, I asked Dell Curry if Stephen Curry is a point guard. As a former point guard, do you think the position Stephen Curry plays is that of a point guard?
JACKSON: Well, I was his coach and he was my point guard. There's no question about that. He's a point guard. I don't think that can be questioned.
TPG: Would you say he's revolutionized the position?
JACKSON: I'm not going to say that. We had score-first point guards, you look at Steve Nash. What I will say is he's an incredible basketball player who continues to get better and has been an incredible ambassador for the game of basketball and is fun to watch. I don't think we're going to see a generation of guys like Stephen Curry because we've never seen a guy like that before. Let's give him credit and celebrate what he does on the floor and acknowledge the all-time great run that he's on right now.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.