Troy "Escalade" Jackson, left, faces off against Anthony "Half Man,...

Troy "Escalade" Jackson, left, faces off against Anthony "Half Man, Half Amazing" Heyward during an And1 Mixtape tour streetball game. (Jan. 15, 2005) Credit: And1

Troy Jackson, a larger-than-life figure who helped put street basketball on the mainstream sports map, died in his sleep early Sunday morning in Los Angeles. He was 35.

The cause of death is not yet known, pending the results of an autopsy.

Jackson, the younger brother of former Knicks guard and ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, was in Los Angeles attending NBA All-Star weekend.

Standing 6-foot-10 and weighing nearly 400 pounds, Jackson, nicknamed "Escalade," played college basketball at the University of Louisville after a two-year stint at Wallace Community College in Alabama.

Jackson's claim to fame came on the street ball circuit after joining the AND1 Mixtape Tour in 2002.

Jackson was later a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Jackson's size, although imposing, wasn't indicative of his personality, according to friends.

"His talent matched his size," said Cardozo High School basketball coach Ron Naclerio, who befriended the Jackson family in the early 1980s. "Troy made it fashionable for big men to play street ball. He was a graceful big guy."

Naclerio, who earned his 600th win on Jan. 31, said he spoke with Jackson the day after he achieved the milestone.

"He couldn't make the game, but he called me the next day to congratulate me," said Naclerio.

A native of Jamaica, Queens, Jackson was a humanitarian off the court and became a spokesperson for STD prevention.

"Everyone who knew him always got a huge smile," said chief executive of Jeff Lenchiner, who was with Jackson in Los Angeles two days prior to his death. "He was one of the nicest guys on the street ball circuit."

Jackson, a graduate of Half Hollow Hills East High School, was a coach and player for the Ball Up street ball franchise, which is set to begin its season on Saturday.

"Our hearts are heavy today and we are deeply saddened by the passing of a teammate, friend, and inspiration," said Ball Up chief executive and commissioner Demetrius Spencer. "The world of street ball lost its ambassador, and the world of basketball lost a great entertainer."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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