Doug Christie flashes a signal to a pretty woman sitting courtside. Nothing strange there—this is, after all, the NBA, where players have no trouble finding swooning groupies. What’s odd is the signal: The Sacramento Kings guard raises an index finger and pinky and then a closed fist after several plays in this Feb. 14 game. “That means, ‘I love you,’ ” explains the pretty woman, who happens to be Christie’s wife, Jackie.
Which just may be the oddest thing of all. In the bacchanalian world of modern sports, where sex scandals and illegitimate children seem as common as Nike swooshes, the Christies are something different: a faithful couple flaunting their affection and working as a team to stave off temptation. Married for seven years, Jackie, 32, travels with Doug on nearly every road trip (most NBA wives stay home), forbids interviews with certain female reporters unless she’s present and has been known to run interference between her husband and female autograph seekers. When Doug, 32, traded punches with Los Angeles Laker forward Rick Fox in a game last fall, Jackie rushed toward the melee almost as quickly as Laker center Shaquille O’Neal. Over-protective? Perhaps, but Jackie isn’t apologizing. “There is this image that NBA players womanize,” she says. “I want to show that doesn’t have to be true and that women have to understand themselves and demand respect.”
To some, though, the “Doug and Jackie show” can get a little weird. “She was notorious for being high-maintenance and in everybody’s face,” says someone close to the Toronto Raptors, the team Doug played for until a 2000 trade sent him to the Kings. Jackie says her talks with Raptors execs were to clarify issues, not make demands. Now a premier defender and key player in the Kings’ run toward a title, Doug also swats such criticism away. “I don’t care what other people think,” he says. “Jackie enables me to narrow my focus on the things I really enjoy—her, my kids, my family and basketball. She is never a distraction, she’s a blessing.”
Both raised in south Seattle, they were introduced by friends in 1992. A part-time model, Jackie saw “a lot of ladies ganging around Doug because he was going to the NBA,” she recalls. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t think so.’ ” Yet she agreed to go on a date with the young star, who was living the life of a single basketball stud at Malibu’s Pepperdine University. “It wasn’t my thing, but as a guy, that’s what you were supposed to do,” says Doug. Still, something was missing, and he found it in Jackie; they married in 1996.
With her help he steered clear of the traps that snagged other young millionaires, avoiding “the underbelly of the lifestyle,” says Brenda Thomas, a former assistant to an NBA player and author of Threesome: Where Seduction, Power and Basketball Collide. “There are women out there that are way above groupie level. If you want to call them geishas, you could.”
Those women met their match in Jackie, who runs a tight ship in the Christies’ two-story mansion in tony Granite Bay, east of Sacramento. There, Ta’Kari, 13, her daughter from a previous relationship, and Chantel, 9, and Douglas Dale Jr., 3, her children with Doug, face restrictions such as a ban on sleepovers at friends’ houses. “Ta’Kari always says, ‘I’m trapped! I want to dress like Britney Spears!’ ” says Jackie. “I say, ‘You can when you’re 16.’ For now I just want to control them.”
A devout Christian, Doug spends all his time with his family except when he’s playing or golfing. For his son’s birthday he wanted to wear a Barney costume but couldn’t find one that fit his 6’6″ frame. Nor can he squeeze into any NBA stereotype: He takes seaweed baths before and after games, reads Deepak Chopra and cooks meals from scratch. Then there are the hand signals, as many as 60 a game. “Most guys might take that as abnormal, but it works for them,” says Kings assistant coach Terry Porter. “With all the temptation in this business, they have true love for each other.”
They also have matching wrist tattoos—the symbol for infinity looped into a heart—though they hardly need to advertise. Right after that Valentine’s Day game against the Seattle Supersonics, a victory that saw Doug named player of the game, the couple made eye contact as Doug left the court. “I love you, baby,” he mouthed to her. “I love you too,” she said.
Mike Tharp in Sacramento