Affectionately called the “Iceman” for his cool on-court demeanor, George Gervin was one of the swaggiest basketball players the NBA has ever seen. 

And while basketball fans all over the world celebrated his 2021 selection to the NBA’s 75th anniversary team as one of the 75 greatest players in league history, esteemed journalist Robert “Scoop” Jackson was behind-the-scenes, working to tell the Iceman’s story.

The Chicago native’s innate business savvy, work ethic, boundless energy, and overall cool factor have led him to wear multiple professional hats throughout his career. He’s currently a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. However, many admired his work from 1994 to 2005 as the executive editor for Harris Publications in New York, where he also spent time as editor-at-large for SLAM and executive editor for XXL magazine. Ten years later, in 2005, Scoop began contributing for ESPN and ESPN.com as a columnist and on-air essayist.

In October, Jackson released his latest book, Ice: Why I Was Born to Score, an autobiography on NBA Hall of Fame player George “Iceman” Gervin who electrified the courts in the 1970s in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and then later in the NBA after the two leagues merged in 1976. Throughout his 14-year career, Gervin was one of the best scorers of his generation. Although Gervin played for three franchises, including the Chicago Bulls for 1985-86 season in his final NBA season, the 12-time all-star is best known for his contributions to the San Antonio Spurs — where he scored 19,383 points placing him third all-time in franchise history — and popularizing the finger roll shot.

Despite a stellar life on the court, Gervin ran into trials off the court. He told the Tampa Bay Times in an article first published in May 13, 1991 that after he was traded to the Chicago Bulls in November 1985, he began to use drugs heavily. In the article, he said his drug use was due, in part, to depression and “choosing the wrong friends.” He would eventually be hospitalized in February 1989 for a cocaine overdose. Since his overdose, Gervin has spoken publicly about his challenges and encouraged others not to make the mistakes that he did. 

Now, Gervin, 73, just completed his fifth season as the head coach of the Ghost Ballers for BIG3, a professional three-on-three basketball league founded by iconic rapper/actor Ice Cube.

George Gervin #44 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots over Rick Mahorn #44 of the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1982 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Gervin played for the Spurs from 1974-85.
LANDOVER, MD - CIRCA 1982: George Gervin #44 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots over Rick Mahorn #44 of the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1982 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Gervin played for the Spurs from 1974-85. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

In this interview with The TRiiBE, Jackson discussed his creative and professional inspirations, how his decades-long relationship with Gervin led to him writing the autobiography, and what he wants his legacy to be (and who should tell his story).

This interview has been condensed for clarity and brevity.

The TRIIBE: How did you make that first connection with George Gervin? What was it like to meet an NBA legend?

SCOOP: I think I met him first at the NBA’s 35th anniversary party in Cleveland during the All-Star Game [in 1981]. I think that’s where I met a lot of the NBA legends. I remember meeting George Gervin at that event. You know, the way he just approaches things, he's like your uncle when you first meet him. Just the way he talks. His voice is so smooth and [it’s] got that gravity, and he's like, “Hey, young fella, how you doing?” Always a smile on his face, always smooth, never bothered, always welcoming. Just in that quick meeting, [he] made me feel cool.

Do you still have a relationship with the Gervin family and Mr. Gervin?

Yeah, that’s why he reached out. It was good, man. For the whole year of 2021, we would get on the phone once a week for an hour to an hour and a half.  As a writer, I wanted to ensure that I crafted things in a way that you know touched on everything that we were trying to get done. 

Can you tell me about the process of interviewing Mr. Gervin for the book? What was the timeline?

For the whole year of 2021, we would get on the phone every week for an hour to an hour and a half. As people talk to you about their lives, you start writing down notes and pulling out things that you may want to know but you may want to get to later. When we first started off, he mentioned his mother a lot. So we were about four or five conversations in and when I called I was like, “Alright man, today, all I want to talk about is your mother.” You know what I’m saying? 

“You've mentioned your mother in every conversation we've had, but I need to speak to you for an hour or 90 minutes strictly about your mom.” And that went on over the course of a year. I would just pull something so that every week, I'd have a focus on what we're going to talk about to make sure that there were no holes in his life. I didn’t want to gloss over anything.

A copy of George Gervin's autobiography, “Ice: Why I Was Born to Score,” is pictured in Scoop Jackson's home office on Dec 20, 2023.
A copy of George Gervin's autobiography, “Ice: Why I Was Born to Score,” is pictured in Scoop Jackson's home office on Dec 20, 2023. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE®

How did Mr. Gervin respond to the final project?

He actually loved it. And he was very comfortable with it because of the approach that I took in telling the story. Because early on, he was really concerned about how much he wanted to discuss the drug situation he went through. And I was like, “Look, man, this is your story. I can't tell you how to handle this. It isn't like a biography. So it's not my job to, like, interrogate. This is an autobiography. This is a memoir. This is from you. So, it’s on you on what you are comfortable sharing.  You know, I'm only going to go as far as you want to go.” 

When you look at the arc of somebody's entire life, 70 years, and you're looking at a two-year period of their life where he wasn't himself, does that two years define his entire life? I don't believe so, especially when you look at the arc of everything that person has done.

Can you share a little bit about the projects you are working on?

We're working on the documentary for the life of [Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer] Dominique Wilkins. That actually started off as a book project because after I did George Gervin, Dominique's people reached out to me with interest in possibly doing his book. And that conversation kind of shifted into the possibility of doing a documentary on him. 

The other project we are hopefully working on in conjunction with the NBA, we are in conversations with Kenya Barris. He threw his hat in the ring to probably be at the helm on a project we are doing that is on the history of the dunk. Not the shoe, the actual shot, and we are looking at it as an artistic form of Black creativity.

You’ve owned your own production company, Strong Island Media, since 1991. On top of that, you have your hands in so much as a journalist and columnist. What are your days like?

SCOOP: That's a great question because they've kind of shifted a little bit but it was always kind of built around assignments in the past. Being with ESPN for 18 years and being with SLAM magazine and XXL and doing NBA magazines, all of this stuff was always by assignment. There was no set time. There was no 9-to-5. When you do your columns for ESPN, the deadline was 6:00 a.m. and I used to do two to three columns per week, so you’re up writing at four or five in the morning. That changed when I went from doing a column for ESPN to writing for Sportscenter because that was a different assignment. 

Right now, I am working on projects with a few assignments in between. So it's more of a regimen thing now where I wake up every day, make sure my wife is off to work and and I'm really in the office every day at the latest by 7:30 a.m. and I’m going to be in my office writing on various projects until probably 9:30 at night.

You said you have a home office, is that correct?

SCOOP: I had an office ever since I started this thing. I've always worked for myself. I started my business, which is a small production company, in 1991. I incorporated my company, Strong Island Media. It started off as Strong Island Productions, really, because I came into the game doing production work for BET. I was an associate producer for BET while I was in grad school at Howard University. And when I finished up, I just continued doing freelance production work, but I was also writing at the same time. 

I just thought it would be smart to have my own company in play. Because I learned early on that when you're in business, business respects business. Business usually doesn’t respect individuals, especially Black individuals, especially small independent Black individuals. If you present yourself in the form of a company whether it's LLC, incorporated, whatever, if that's how you lead, usually companies respect that more because they always know there's a lawyer involved.

On Dec. 20, 2023, Scoop Jackson showed his home office, filled with art, books, and keepsakes to inspire him.
On Dec. 20, 2023, Scoop Jackson showed his home office, which is filled with art, books, and keepsakes to inspire him. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE®.

How do you manage burnout?

SCOOP:  If you look around my office, there’s never anything out of [my] sight that I wouldn’t consider greatness, that can't push you to let you know that there's still work to be done. You know, there's no room for fatigue or tiredness or “I can't think of anything.” 

I am not taking anything away from [Andre 3000] because I love him to death, I even love his new album [New Blue Sun], but I'm not going to be like Andre 3000 and say, “I gave y’all the instrumental album because I couldn't think of anything else to talk about,” which I think is some bullshit. Look at society, look at everything that’s going on in the culture, look at what's going on in humanity, look at what’s going on with Black folks. You can’t tell me someone, who is as creative and innovative as 3 Stacks is, can’t think of something to rap about. I try to surround myself to make sure that never, ever comes out of my mouth or enters my brain.

Would you ever consider someone writing an autobiography for you like you did for Mr. Gervin?

SCOOP: No, that's not something I've ever thought about. I would never deny a brother or sister the opportunity if they came to me with that project, if they felt that it was something they wanted to do, if it was something in their spirit, if it could do something not only for me but for their career. 

I'm just basing that on listening to people complain when they don't feel they've gotten their flowers or feel like they’ve always been overlooked or underappreciated. I’ve actually gotten mine throughout my journey.

is a freelance contributor for The Triibe.