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Quest for Perfection
Rick Reilly
November 15, 1993
Afflicted with Tourette's syndrome, the Nuggets' Mahmoud Abdul-Raul formerly Chris Jackson, has found solace in religion
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November 15, 1993

Quest For Perfection

Afflicted with Tourette's syndrome, the Nuggets' Mahmoud Abdul-Raul formerly Chris Jackson, has found solace in religion

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You: "Yeah."

Him: "I don't know."

Once, at a function with the governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, Jackson was sitting in a chair behind the dais and loosed an "Uh-huh!" and a "Whoop!" in the middle of Romer's speech. Romer, unaware of Jackson's affliction, turned politely and said, "Chris, would you like to add something?"

Twice, NBA referees have given Jackson technicals for nothing more than his usual involuntary facial or verbal tics. "He'd be in team meetings," says friend Alan Levitt, president of the greater Washington, D.C., chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association, "and the coach [Westhead] would start to say something, and Chris would holler out a big 'Uh-huh!' I think Westhead took it as very sarcastic. Even some of the players thought he was putting Westhead down."

"I don't think many of us knew what it was," says Williams. "I think a lot of guys might have thought he was arrogant or just being mean."

There was confusion. People in the Nugget front office hinted to reporters that Jackson's medication (Prozac and Prolixin) was not the right dosage for Denver's altitude. "Just an excuse," Jackson says. "My dosage has never changed since LSU." There was talk that West-head's experience with the tragic 1990 death of his Loyola Marymount player Hank Gathers—a negligence suit brought against Westhead was ultimately dropped in March 1992—had kept the coach from using Jackson. "No," says Westhead, now the coach at George Mason University. "I thought Chris was a terrific young man. But I play who can help you win."

In the shape he was in at the start of the '90 season, Jackson couldn't have helped a four-corners offense win, much less Westhead's hyperspace contraption. So Jackson got fewer minutes than the nightly weatherman. The coach and the player didn't talk much. "It was personal," says Jackson. "I will take it no other way."

The second year was worse. Although he had the foot operation in April 1991 and recovered well, he got fewer minutes and had fewer friends. "Chris just kind of kept to himself," says Nugget teammate Marcus Liberty. "He stayed in his room." Jackson blames his reclusive existence on his playing difficulties. Dan Issel, then the Nuggets' TV color man and now their coach, once said, "If Chris came in the game and missed his first two or three shots, he wasn't going to play the rest of the night." In fact, in the last game of the '91-92 season, with Westhead about to get the pink slip, Westhead kept Jackson on the bench the entire game, as if to say, You're firing the wrong guy.

Through it all Jackson never ever wavered. "I know my day will come," he told his mother.

And, quickflash, it did.

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