Who is Jackie 'Blackjack' Ryan? How a ludicrously skilled lad from Brooklyn almost made it to the NBA
'The Last Dance' was more than a filler when the world feverishly waited for the NBA Restart. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic ground sports events across the globe to a halt and left sports fans desperate for anything sport. ESPN and Netflix gave the world five weeks of scintillating content as it traced the journey of Michael Jordan and his legendary Chicago Bulls squad leading up to the decisive 1998 season. A couple of months later, with enough safety protocols in place, the NBA finally blew the start whistle in Orlando.
And now, the world eagerly awaits the start of the 2020-21 edition of the NBA. While we're waiting, there's a story that needs to be told.
Jackie Ryan was on the verge of success. Since we start by saying he was at the precipice, this isn't necessarily a sad tale. In his prime, Ryan, a Brooklyn streetball player was all set to be a legend. Perhaps if not for being an insane hot-head and the constant beer-guzzling, and the general lack of seriousness, Brooklyn Nets may have had a legend on their side. Jackie Ryan grew up in a tough Brooklyn household and swapped football to basketball when he fell in love with the big brown Spalding.
Back in the '90s, Ryan was one of the few white guys who could play some ludicrously good basketball. He could dunk, weave his way in and out through any sort of defense against him, and in the eyes of the people who watched him, it was a simple affirmation— "This guy can play." The reason why Ryan is talked about right now is because of a documentary that's releasing based on the streetball legend. This isn't the first the world has seen of Ryan. He was recently featured in a segment of Netflix's 'Losers'.
Despite the immense talent, Ryan's Hulk-like anger issues often put him in a spot of bother. He moved from college to college and the anger issues with poor grades meant he was constantly on the road hunting for a place to study and play. It was finally at John Jay High School where his 26PPG average turned heads. This, combined with some unorthodox, but efficient gameplay made him the talk of the town. Except, his old habits got the better of him, and soon he was back on the streets.
East 5th St Park in Brooklyn became his turf where he mastered every move he could and in addition could do some tricks with the ball. The recreational League at West 4th saw him dunk 44 points against Phil Sellers, a former Detroit Piston, and that catapulted him to fame. At this time, sports columnist Peter Vecsey saw something special in the man from Brooklyn and offered him to get a tryout with the Nets. Then Head coach Bill Fitch and Rick Carlisle remember him for his astounding gameplay. But then general fitness was an issue and he didn't make it. He was the second-to-last man cut, ending his NBA dreams.
The world knows him as Blackjack and they know so for his sheer domination of the five boroughs for the last few decades. He was the first white Harlem Wizard, and set three Guinness Records, led the West 4th Street league in scoring at 50 years old, and performed all over the world as the Hoop Wizard, alongside his daughter, Morgan, for the last 16 years, entertaining kids with a ridiculous, enjoyable series of tricks.
'Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story' will be available on VoD on Friday, October 30. Directed by Danny A Abeckaser, the film stars Greg Finley in the title role, as well as David Arquette, Brandon Thomas Lee, Ashley Greene, Robert Davi, Bo Dietl and James Madio.