Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf takes rightful place of honor in Pete Maravich's house at LSU
LSU retired Chris Jackson’s jersey in the building named for Pete Maravich.
That’s an official linking of Tigers basketball royalty – the two most dynamic basketball players in program history. With all due respect to Bob Pettit, Rudy Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal – and they are all due much respect – no one else brought football-like excitement to LSU basketball the way Maravich and Jackson did.
At halftime of Saturday’s 64-50 victory over Texas A&M in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU retired the No. 35 worn by Jackson, who changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf – the name that appears on the ceremonial jersey – after converting to Islam early in his NBA career.
The Aggies scored 5 fewer points than the 55 Jackson had when he set the NCAA single-game scoring record for a freshman in a game at Ole Miss – a record that still stands, as do his freshman marks for total points (965) and scoring average (30.2).
Maravich’s marks for career points and scoring average still stand.
Jackson set the PMAC record for points when he had 50 in a win against Tennessee, though his teammate O’Neal would break the record with 53 against Arkansas State the following season.
Maravich became college basketball’s all-time leading scorer while playing for the Tigers from 1967-70. He never played in the building that bears his name because until he came along there was no need for a state-of-the-art facility for the LSU basketball team.
But Maravich changed that and plans for a new building were drawn up while Maravich was still a Tiger. The building was renamed for his in 1988 after he died of a heart ailment.
Macklin was the star when Dale Brown took the Tigers to the 1981 Final Four, its second national semifinal appearance ever and first in 28 years. The Tigers returned in 1986 after an improbable run as a No. 11 seed.
But nothing recaptured the Maravich magic until Jackson made the short trip from Gulfport, Miss., to join the LSU program for the 1988-89 season.
Jackson was a few inches shorter than Maravich, but his ability as a dribbler, passer, shooter and creative scorer were the best since Maravich.
He was the consensus SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American in both of his seasons.
But beyond the numbers and accolades it was Jackson’s ability to electrify spectators that more closely resembled Maravich’s than anyone else’s had.
O’Neal lobbied for his former teammate in 2016 with a letter to the LSU Basketball Jersey Retirement Nomination Committee.
“You saw him bring LSU fans out of their seats,” O’Neal wrote, adding that he considered Jackson “one of the greatest basketball talents I’ve ever been around and one of the greatest in college basketball history.”
Jackson, who at age 51 competes in the Big 3 league, did all that he did despite being born with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary repetitive movements and vocalization.
The Abdul-Rauf jersey hangs alongside those of Maravich, Pettit, O’Neal, Macklin, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.
No. 35. Forever Immortalized. pic.twitter.com/ZiSxN6mrsb
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) February 29, 2020
As part of the emotional ceremony Saturday, a message from O’Neal was shown on the video screens.
O’Neal told Abdul-Rauf, “You are undoubtedly the greatest LSU Tiger of all time.”
That point is debatable, but Abdul-Rauf is now officially and rightfully in a very exclusive group of all-time Tiger greats.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf cover photo via Twitter @LSUBasketball