GG Jackson has been the brightest spot in a troubled season for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have not many things to be happy about in a season that was marked by Ja Morant absence and the fact that many key players were injured. Morant only appeared in six games this year as he suffered a season ending injury that put a dent to the Grizzlies’ hopes for the season.
Recently, the team had 13 players listed as out in the game against the Boston Celtics in a season that is underlined by injuries starting early with Steven Adam’s season-ending surgery before the start of the 2023/24 season. Adams was traded to the Rockets a few months later as the team elected to save some money ahead of the seasons ahead.
With players going down one after the other, GG Jackson became the second player to be upgraded from a two-way contract to a standard one alongside fellow rookie Vince Williams. Jackson had a tough entry story to the NBA as the 6’9 (2.06 m) forward saw his named dropping out of the 1st round in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Jackson ended up being the 45th pick after starting his college career as a 5-star recruit from high school. He had to go through the Memphis Grizzlies G League affiliate putting up numbers in the board. The Grizzlies’ injury struggles brought the 19-year-old forward around January.
He had 23 points in a surprising victory over the Warriors mid-January. He was selected to speak to the NBA on TNT and his reaction became viral when he heard the voice of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. From that point, GG Jackson appeared in several NBA games as the youngest player in the NBA.
After the dust from the NBA trade deadline settled, GG Jackson got to the court to score 27 in the Grizzlies’ loss to the Chicago Bulls. He broke Kobe Bryant’s record for the youngest player to score 25 or more points in a game coming off the bench. After the game, Jackson signed a standard deal with the Grizzlies for the next 4 years.
“It’s not a secret. When you see him play, he’s going to be a great, great player,” teammate Santi Aldama said about Jackson via Commercial Appeal. “He’s always asking questions and trying to be better.”
From a shaky college career to breaking Bryant’s record; GG Jackson’s shines in adversity
GG Jackson was rated a five-star recruit and was the consensus best collegiate prospect for the 2023 recruiting class. He initially committed to play college basketball at North Carolina. He then decommited from the UNC and reclassified to the class of 2022 and enrolled at South Carolina.
GG Jackson had many ups and downs during the one year he stayed in South Carolina. Playing in the power forward position, Jackson was named Freshman of the Week after averaging 15.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the first two games of his college career. Jackson was benched after shooting 0-for-8 and scoring no points in an 85–42 loss to Tennessee.
He ended up leading South Carolina in points with 15.4 points per game and also led the team with 26 blocks and 24 steals. His size and two-way potential made him an appealing prospect, but his inconsistency in the offensive end hurt his draft stock. He made the Grizzlies’ roster after averaging 20 points on 43.3% shooting with the Memphis Hustle.
He entered the Grizzlies’ lineup on January 9 and averaged 10.6 points. The young forward started the month of February even better scoring more than 16 points in the last three games. He had 27 points in the last game making history in the same day that the Lakers unveiled Kobe Bryant’s 19-foot bronze statue in their arena.
“Shoutout to Kobe,” Jackson said after breaking Bryant’s record. “Wow. I feel like this is going to be stamped in Grizzlies history for a long time to come. I’ve said this before, but it’s not me, it’s all glory to God.”