Stephen Jackson admits he smoked marijuana before a few games, played high

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During the long grind of the season, the NBA is about recovery. It’s why getting players enough sleep — changing travel schedules around, canceling shootarounds, etc. — has increasingly become a focus of NBA teams. Sleep is the best thing for recovery.

Would marijuana use help with that? Would it be less toxic to players’ systems than some of the pain killers they take now? I’m not a doctor, I’m not about to play one on the Internet, but it’s an interesting discussion.

Former NBA star Stephen Jackson said he thought it was helpful while joining Michael Rapaport’s podcast “I AM RAPAPORT” where Jackson also said Don Nelson was cool with the players smoking off the court, and sure he did play high a few times. (Hat tip to CBSSports.com’s James Herbert for the transcription.)

“Listen, man, one thing about basketball, it’s no PEDs, no steroids, it’s nothing like that,” Jackson said. “From my experience in the league, players that I’ve been around, guys don’t even really drink — some guys do drink, some guys don’t smoke. I think it’s a higher percentage of guys that smoke than drink. I know coming in, especially in my time, everybody smoked. After games, when I came into the league, there was only one drug test. And that was in the beginning of the season, in training camp. You knew when it was coming. You could smoke the rest of the season. That was the good days.

“A lot of guys do it because that’s the best way to relax,” he continued. “You take so much stuff to get up for the games, and guys don’t like taking all those pills and stuff to heal. Go home, smoke your blunt, man. You’ll sleep good….

“I can’t speak for nobody else,” Jackson said. “Me personally, I’ve done a lot of s— before games sometimes and still was out there to go out there and be productive. I just gotta be real, you know, it’s been a couple games where I smoked before games and had great games. It’s been some games where I smoked before the game and was on the bench after three minutes, sitting on the sideline, saying, ‘Please calm down, this high has to calm down.’ I done shot three shots that went over the backboard.”

Jackson said Don Nelson used to talk openly with the players about marijuana use. I doubt he had those conversations with Gregg Popovich.

And Jackson tells a good story.

You’re living in a bubble if you don’t think a few players in every professional sport on the planet play high sometimes, as well as get high off the court/field/track. That doesn’t make it common anywhere. If you think it happens more in the NBA than the NFL or top European soccer leagues, that speaks more to your perceptions and biases about NBA players than it does reality.

However, as marijuana continues its march to being legal in the United States — it will be, despite what some in power now may want to see, look at the age breakdowns of who supports and opposes it becoming legal — it is something all sports leagues are going to have to deal with. It’s never going to be okay with the leagues to have players take the field high, that’s an injury liability, but as attitudes toward off-court use change leagues will need to change.