On July 5th, 2014, Pierre Jackson tore his right achilles tendon in his first ever summer league game as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Jackson went to make a cut to receive the ball from Nerlens Noel when the injury occurred, forcing him to hop around on his only good leg before falling to the ground. He was eventually carried off the Amway Center practice facility floor by two teammates, a towel covering his face to hide the tears.
Fast forward a little over a year later, and Pierre Jackson is back on the court with the Sixers, but now with a newly signed NBA contract. After two games in Las Vegas Summer League, Philadelphia inked the former Baylor star to a four-year, partially guaranteed contract.
Jackson's pact, the first NBA deal he's signed despite being drafted in 2013, is the culmination of a year's worth of rehab and hard work.
"It was amazing, man," Jackson told reporters Wednesday about putting pen to paper. "It’s just a feeling I can’t really explain. I’ve been waiting on this chance my whole life to be a part of a team and actually be there the whole year. It’s finally here.
"Once I got home I hugged my mom. I hugged my grandma. They were crying and stuff like that. It’s a big deal for my family."
When the 23-year-old suffered the injury, Philadelphia covered his medical expenses, as well as paid him the $400,000 owed on his contract. The support from the team was not something he took lightly.
"It means a lot," Jackson said. "Of course I have other teams interested in me, hitting my agent, hitting me up. But I'm the same way, I wanted to play in Philadelphia."
Jackson had stated repeatedly throughout rehab his intentions to eventually play for the Sixers, and attributed the fan support as a main reason for that.
"The fans are just really serious about it," he said. "They're not gonna sugarcoat anything. They welcomed me with open arms, even when I got hurt, they were devastated about that as well."
Jackson has appeared in three games for the Sixers in Las Vegas, averaging 11 points on 34.4% shooting from the floor in 25.8 minutes per game. While he's relied mostly on his jump shot and hasn't show the high flying skills that helped put him on NBA radars during his time at Baylor, Jackson insists his explosiveness is back to normal.
"With me being 100 percent, I'm going to be able to showcase that again," he said.
Jackson's path to the NBA has been winding and arduous, but he now has the ability to stay in the league for good if he can excel in a Sixers uniform.
"I stuck to the process that Sam [Hinkie] and them wanted me to stick to, and it all worked out."