American basketball player
When Jason Kidd was traded from the powerhouse Phoenix Suns to the woebegone New Jersey Nets in June 2001, many seasoned basketball observers predicted the move would be the beginning of the end for Kidd's career on the court. Kidd proved them all wrong, when he reinvigorated the Nets, powering the team's march to the NBA championship game in 2002. Quite a feat for a team that had enjoyed only three winning seasons since 1984-1985. Making Kidd's accomplishment all the more impressive was the fact that he did it under a cloud of bad publicity related to his January 2001 arrest on charges of punching his wife in the face during a domestic dispute. Kidd came back even stronger in 2002-2003. As of December 31, 2002, the Nets stood at the top of the Atlantic
Division of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference, with a record of 23-9. The Nets led the division by 3½ games over its closest rival, the Boston Celtics. At the same point in the season, Kidd was averaging about twenty-one points per game (PPG), up sharply from 14.7 PPG the previous season.
Born in San Francisco
He was born Jason Fredrick Kidd in San Francisco, California, on March 23, 1973. The product of an inter-racial marriage, Kidd is the son of Steve, an African American who worked his way up through the ranks at TWA from baggage handler to ticket counter supervisor, and Anne Kidd, a white computer programmer for the Bank of America. Although his parents later divorced, they remained on amicable terms until Steve's death in 1999. Kidd grew up in Alameda, a solidly middle-class suburb of Oakland. While still quite young, he became interested in soccer but by the time he entered third grade he had switched his allegiances to basketball and spent most of his free time playing the game with older boys. It was during this period that Kidd developed his strong passing skills. To ensure that he was invited back to play, he made sure to get the ball to his older teammates for easy scores.
Kidd had developed into a local scoring sensation by the time he entered high school at St. Joseph's of Notre Dame in Alameda. During his high school basketball career, he averaged twenty-five points, ten assists, seven rebounds, and seven steals per game and led his team to back-to-back California Division I championships. As a senior he was named High School Player of the Year by both USA Today and Parade magazine. After graduating from high school, Kidd enrolled at the University of California in nearby Berkeley. As a freshman he averaged thirteen points, 7.7 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game, good enough to earn him a berth on the All-Pac-10 team. In his sophomore year, Kidd averaged 16.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore ever to win this honor.
Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks
In the wake of his strong performance as a college sophomore, Kidd declared himself eligible for the 1994 NBA draft. The hapless Dallas Mavericks, a lackluster team for much of its history, were looking for a strong point guard prospect and selected Kidd second overall in the draft. It proved an inspired choice for the Mavericks, as Kidd, working with Jamal Mashburn at forward and Jimmy Jackson at shooting guard, quickly turned around the team's fortunes. However, an injury sidelining Jackson for the second half of the season put an end to the team's hopes for a playoff berth. For his first season in the NBA, Kidd averaged 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.7 assists and was named NBA Rookie of the Year.
Kidd came back even stronger for his second season with the Mavs, averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game. But he also began to earn a reputation as a disruptive influence, refusing to speak to teammate Jimmy Jackson for six weeks after the two had an argument. Kidd also feuded with new Mavericks coach Jim Cleamons. He played only the first twenty-two games of the 1996-1997 season with Dallas before being traded to the Phoenix Suns. It was Kidd's inability to get along with new Mavericks coach Jim Cleamons that triggered the decision by Dallas management to trade Kidd to the Phoenix Suns. When the team's new owners fired former coach Dick Motta and replaced him with Cleamons, Kidd complained that he should have been consulted about the coaching change. Not long after Cleamons arrived in Dallas, he and Kidd had an argument, following which Kidd refused to speak to the coach for two months.
An injury in his very first game with the Suns sidelined him for the next twenty-one games, but he came back strong in the final thirty-two games of the season to lead Phoenix into the playoffs, where the team lost to the Seattle Supersonics. Averaging 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game, Kidd helped the Suns to reach the playoffs once again in 1997-1998.
Leads NBA in Assists
Kidd became the first Phoenix player ever to lead the NBA in assists during the 1998-1999 season, averaging 10.8 per game. His performance powered another Suns' trip to the finals. He once again topped the NBA in assists per game in the 1999-2000 season, averaging 10.1. Although he suffered an ankle injury late in the season, he returned in time to help his team beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. The Suns, however, lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
During the 2000-2001 season, Kidd led the NBA in assists for the third consecutive season, averaging 9.8 per game, and earning for the Suns another berth in the playoffs. But it was Kidd's personal life that earned him the most publicity during this period. In January 2001 he was arrested on charges of striking his wife, Joumana, in the face. Kidd and his wife quickly reconciled, but the after-effects of the case had a major impact on Kidd's career. It was a key factor in the Suns' decision to trade Kidd to the Nets, a move that many believed would sound the death knell for his career.
|1973||Born March 23 in San Francisco, California|
|1992-94||Attends University of California, Berkeley|
|1994||Picked by Dallas Mavericks in NBA draft|
|1996||Traded by Mavericks to Phoenix Suns|
|1997||Marries Joumana Samaha|
|2001||Arrested in January on charges of punching his wife in the face|
|2001||Traded by Suns to New Jersey Nets|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1991-92||Naismith Award as nation's top high school player|
|1991-92||Named High School Player of the Year by USA Today and All-Pac-10 team|
|1993-94||Pac-10 Player of the Year|
|1994-95||NBA Co-rookie of the Year (with Grant Hill)|
|1996, 1998, 2000-02||NBA All-Star|
|1997-98||Topped 700 assists and 500 rebounds in a single season|
|1998-99||Led NBA in assists|
|1999-00||Led NBA in assists|
|2000||Gold medal at Olympic Games in Sydney|
|2000-01||Led NBA in assists|
Vows to Take Nets to Playoffs
Determined to make the best of his trade to the Nets, Kidd boldly vowed to take the down-on-their-luck Nets to the playoffs in 2001-2002. Most of his teammates on the Nets, as well as the team's fans, were doubtful, but Kidd delivered, leading his new team to the NBA finals. Even though they were roundly defeated by the Lakers in the finals, it was a stellar achievement for a team that had only once made it past the first round of the playoffs.
With Kidd firmly established as the Nets' leader, the team seemed almost certain to make it into the playoffs again in 2002-2003. However, whatever the outcome for the season may be, Kidd has made it clear that he's far from washed up in basketball. Barring injury, he's likely to remain a major force in pro ball for years to come.
|DAL: Dallas Mavericks; NJN: New Jersey Nets; PHO: Phoenix Suns.|
Address: Jason Kidd, c/o New Jersey Nets, 390 Murray Hill Pkwy., East Rutherford, NJ 07073.
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Sketch by Don Amerman