Then, almost midstream in his 16-year NBA career, this low-post scorer evolved into a three-point shooting savant. During his 2005-06 season with the Washington Wizards, Jamison ranked fifth in three-point percentage (39.4 percent) among players who appeared in all 82 games.
He was the Wooden and Naismith Award winner who attempted only 27 threes in college. Then he became the 20,000-point scorer who deepened his impact in the NBA with his jump shot, and later he handled the rare dual job as television analyst and scout. Every change-up has kept Jamison relevant, and now his ability to shape-shift has made him a key member of the Wizards’ basketball operations department.
“Being a back-to-the-basket guy and then all of a sudden, I had to reinvent myself,” Jamison said, reflecting on his playing days. “This is nothing different.”
In his latest career turn, Jamison, 43, will expand on his previous work as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers. Although Jamison, a two-time all-star and multimillionaire, could have spent retirement playing 18 holes a day, he opted to take on the grunt work of scouting. Flying into small towns, evaluating a prospect and writing extensive reports — none of that resembles a cushy post-retirement life.
Still, in the view of former teammate Brendan Haywood, who works as an analyst for NBA TV, Jamison’s role change comes as no surprise.
“You don’t see any highlights from UNC of Antawn hitting jumpers,” said Haywood, who was a freshman at North Carolina during Jamison’s junior (and final) season and would later reunite with him in Washington. “But by the time he came back from his rookie year and played summer pickup ball, he was killing all of us because he had put in so much and now he was hitting jump shots that we never knew were even possible or [were] even in his repertoire. But that’s the same thing you’re going to see with him in the front office. He’s willing to put the work in to be great.”
While scouting, Jamison also performed part-time as a studio analyst for Lakers games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. He might have been handpicked by the Lakers broadcast team, but Jamison still felt the need for more — just like during his playing days, when he recognized he needed to evolve and turned himself into an early version of the stretch-four that now is common in the NBA.
“Antawn was a hell of a player. Easily, maybe a hall of fame basketball player, but he’s even a better person,” said Caron Butler, Jamison’s former Wizards teammate who was recently named one of the team’s television analysts. “He adapts to situations. I think that because he’s able to adapt to any and every situation, he’s going to continue to keep evolving.”
After handling his two previous jobs, Jamison felt the pull toward working behind the scenes. That attraction only grew stronger when he attended scouting meetings where everyone came into a room, threw names of potential draft picks on the board and started making the decisions that would affect the future of the franchise.
“I like this,” Jamison would think to himself.
“The thing for me is that I love going to see this college guy play and see how he would fit into this certain piece of puzzle,” Jamison said. “It intrigues me. It motivates me. It gives me the restart of the batteries. This is almost addicting.”
When Jamison would walk into arenas, he would spot old friends such as Tommy Sheppard. At the time, Sheppard was the Wizards’ No. 2 behind Ernie Grunfeld, and he would plant the seeds for Jamison’s return to Washington.
“He was like: ‘Bud, we got to find a way,’ ” Jamison recalled.
Following his promotion to general manager in July, Sheppard reached out to the Lakers for permission to speak with Jamison and officially made the pitch.
Jamison will now be fully entrenched in the front office and have a greater voice in decisions. In the coming weeks, Jamison, who lives in Charlotte, said the team’s revamped basketball operations department will meet in Washington and develop its blueprint for the season. With a seat at the Wizards’ table, Jamison will begin his next metamorphosis.
“This is … my calling as far as after basketball and being in the front office and being a piece of the puzzle in trying to put the right pieces together,” Jamison said. “This is going to be fun. I love being able to come back to D.C. and being around people I respect and people who respect me. Out of all the things that have happened after basketball, this might be the smoothest transition.”
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