The next best thing to winning the NBA Finals is losing the NBA Finals.
Such a statement might sound strange, but look how it worked out for a guy named LeBron James. Twice did King James reach the game's highest stage and fail before his maturation into the undisputed champion of the sport.
For real competitors, getting there isn't enough. By coming close and falling short two times, James learned how truly hard it is to reach that level and get the job done. And once he finally did, it was so much more special.
Reggie Jackson and the Oklahoma City Thunder must treat it the same way.
James finally figured out the recipe for success last year at the expense of the Thunder, brushing aside a team that most thought would keep LeBron and the new Big Three winless for another year. Instead, King James took the reins and didn't let up until he had that championship locked down.
Jackson did not log any minutes during the lengthy Oklahoma City playoff run, but did see plenty of time during the regular season serving as the primary backup point guard when Eric Maynor was injured. Jackson averaged 11.1 minutes in 45 games during his rookie year, averaging 3.1 points and 1.6 assists while shooting 32.1 percent. Per 36 minutes, Jackson averaged 10.1 points.
It wasn't the same amount of time Jackson was used to seeing during his days with Boston College, where he spent three years before leaving early to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft -- he played 34 minutes per game in his final season -- but when he was on the court, he became more sure of himself.
"I'm just more confident," Jackson said before Oklahoma City's 108-100 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday night at TD Garden. "Definitely more confident in myself and what it takes [to] win in this league. Right now, I've just got to stay engaged, but I definitely have a sense of understanding of how things get done in this league and how consistent you've got to be."
Jackson was fortunate enough to have his team reach the Finals in his first year, and that was thanks to the stellar play of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Not surprisingly, playing with Durant and Westbrook has its advantages, and Jackson has learned a thing or two from the experience.
"Just how to work hard, that's probably the biggest thing I've learned," said Jackson. "I feel I'm not really getting to show it yet on the court, especially being behind two great point guards. I think last year I really learned what it meant to work hard every time no matter what you're doing. It just really helps with the growth of my game."
Jackson didn't play in Oklahoma City's narrow defeat in Boston and has only been logging four minutes per game over seven contests this year, but that's certainly not because of his attitude. After all, Jackson saw first hand what it took to reach the peak of the mountain, and that's where he wants to be again.
"The expectations [are] at the highest," he said. "Still [a] championship."
Gone, but not forgotten: Jackson keeping up with Boston College
Jackson is a over a year removed from school, but he hasn't forgotten about Boston College -- the place where he made his name. Living the life of a professional basketball player makes keeping up with an alma mater difficult, for sure, but the 2011 All-ACC First Team selection has been doing what he can to stay in the know about the team he led to the second round of the NIT.
"I've been trying to keep up with them," said Jackson. "I've seen two games, Tough start, but they've got some good young players so I'm hoping for a turnaround."
Boston College's men's basketball team is 2-3 on the young season. After winning the season opener in impressive fashion against Florida International, the Eagles went 0-for-3 in the 2012 Charleston Classic before getting back into the win column after a hard-fought, low-scoring affair against Auburn.
Ryan Anderson, a sophomore forward and the team's leading scorer, and freshman guard Olivier Hanlan have been the two most consistent players thus far. Anderson is averaging 17.8 points and 9.5 rebounds while Hanlan is scoring 11.2 points per tilt and averaging 3.6 boards, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals.
"For a freshman, he is pretty fast," Jackson said of Hanlan. "Learn how to play with pace, I think he's doing a good job. I think the team's just going to continue growing and get better."
Said Jackson of Anderson: "He's just being aggressive, just kind of being the leader of that team. He's doing what he feels he needs for the team to win every night. Right now has been tough, but they'll hit their stride and figure things out."
Basketball isn't the only sport Jackson keeps up with. He has kept en eye on the football program, but it has been tough since he can't always see the games from Oklahoma. Unfortunately for Jackson, the Eagles haven't had much success this season. BC, which faces N.C. State in the season finale on Saturday, is 2-9 and dead last in the ACC. Frank Spaziani, the program's fourth-year head coach, has faced seemingly unending criticism for the team's poor performance during his reign and is expected to be fired at the end of the season. None of that matters to Jackson, though, who still supports Coach Spaz as a member of the Boston College family.
"No. I enjoy Frank," Jackson said when asked if he thought Spaziani should be fired. "He's done great with the program. He's been there when they've been doing well. I continue to wish him the best. Definitely I pull for BC, anybody in the family. He's still in the family, so of course I'm always pulling for him."
Jackson was also very complimentary of Boston College men's hockey coach Jerry York, a legend in his sport.
"I'd see him every day in the weight room," said Jackson. "Great guy. Combo of hard work and I think he's somewhat like a father figure to the team. He's just a great person to be around. I've always enjoyed his presence."
York will become college hockey's all-time winningest coach this season, a feat that represents his talent as a coach and mentor as well as a proud and successful career.
"It's monumental," Jackson said of York's pending milestone. "I'm definitely proud. I'm definitely happy for him and his success."
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.