Jackson sees every day as chance to be better Christ follower

For Justin Jackson, small forward for the Sacramento Kings, getting better is about more than just a game.

It’s about spending every day trying to be more like Christ.

“Each day is a new journey, a new day to try to be a better me, to try to be a better follower of Him.

That mindset helps me a lot,” he said.

Jackson accepted Christ and was baptized when he was 11, but he said it wasn’t until recently that he started living for Him.

“I think I was one of those who knew I was saved and went through the motions,” he said. “Now I realize He is all that really matters and that is the best feeling. Without Jesus we wouldn’t even be here. Without His sacrifice of Him coming and dying for us this life is null and void. He means everything to me.”

In 2017 he led the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) to the national championship, but Jackson said the banner year was about “giving God glory and thanking Him each and every day for the talent I have.”

Jackson was the 2016–17 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and a Consensus First-Team All-American. During his junior season, his last before entering the NBA Draft, he averaged 18.5 points, a career-high 4.7 rebounds and scored a school-record single-season 105 three-pointers.

During UNC’s run to their sixth national championship he averaged a team-high 19.5 points in the NCAA tournament. Beginning in the 2014–15 season through 2016–17, Jackson was 1 of 2 UNC players to score 1,600 career points with 150 three-pointers and have 400 rebounds and 300 assists.

Drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in 2017 in the first round and 15th overall, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings on draft day. He is one of several homeschooled NBA players including Blake Griffin (Detroit) and Michael Beasley (New York).

Jackson finished his rookie 2017–18 season averaging 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists while averaging 22.1 minutes. He started 41 games.

“He is a smart player. He knows how to play,” said Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. “Off the court he is a great person. He jokes a lot. He is a good guy.”

Sacramento Kings forward Zach Randolph said Jackson “brings everything.”

“He undoubtedly works hard and puts time in,” Randolph said. “He is very professional at his age. Everything about him has been great.”

On and off the court, 23-year-old Jackson wants to reflect his faith by the way he lives.

“I hope by the way that I live I can live by example and they can see there is something different in me,” Jackson said.

He also does Bible studies with Randolph and other teammates.

“He is a kid who is always reading the Word,” Randolph said.

Kings forward-center Jakarr Sampson said of Jackson, “He wears his faith right there in the open. He lets everybody know his faith. He is a true believer. He shows it around us in everything.”

One way that Jackson relates his faith to teammates is through his positive attitude.

He is not a “Debbie Downer,” Sampson said. “He is always positive, always looking forward. You never see him down or upset. He has that vibe to him.”