It hasn't been easy for Jackie, either. "We've had our problems, just like everybody else," she says. Eight and a half years ago she suffered a nervous breakdown and underwent shock treatments. "Perfectionism has its price," she says. "I just felt I'd somehow been a failure as a wife and mother, and I withdrew from everything." Soon she was back in circulation, and, as with everything else that touches their lives, the episode seemed to draw the family closer together.
Nothing, however, has been able to help Jackie overcome the phobia she has about watching her sons play basketball. When a game is on TV she will only watch a tape replay, because seeing it live makes her too nervous. If she must watch a game in an arena, she's sure to wear her glasses, so it will be less obvious that she often has her eyes clamped firmly shut. "We figure she ought to get her ticket at half price," says Jim Sr., only half kidding. When John hit three free throws in the final minute to beat UCLA in his freshman year at Notre Dame, his mother was walking in the arena's hallways, anxiously saying her rosary. During John's college career, the elder Paxsons have made the 259-mile trip to South Bend for several of his games, but she has seen little of any of them. "When he plays," she says, "I have to go walk around for a while. Sometimes I go to The Grotto and pray. Oh, I don't pray for Notre Dame to win anymore. I know that's not right. I just pray that everything turns out for the best."
Because of John's lack of size and speed, he will probably have to endure in the NBA some of the anxiety that Jim went through during his first season in Portland. Jim was the 12th player taken in the 1979 draft, but he averaged just 6.2 points a game in his rookie season and played tentatively most of the year. "He wasn't a smashing success," says Portland Coach Jack Ramsay. Since then Paxson's game has steadily improved, largely because he is one of the best players in the league at moving without the ball, an ability perfectly suiting Ramsay's offense, which stresses motion, screens and passing. "He's not fast," Ramsay says, "but he's quick. There are very few players who can catch him in the open court, and he gets to his target quickly. He might run his curls and cuts two or three times and not get the ball. For anyone else, that would be demoralizing."
Guarding Jim can also be demoralizing. "He makes you work all night defensively," says Cleveland Guard World B. Free. "You have to take a few bee pollen tablets to stay with him."
"He disrupts the defense by moving so much," says Blazer Center Mychal Thompson. "Even if Pax doesn't get the ball, the other team is usually so concerned about him getting it in the lane that it opens things up for someone else."
Jim has spent most of his pro career opening things up for someone else—and his example might just have opened NBA doors a little wider for John. But then, that's what big brothers are for.