Reporters who cover Christie's former team, the Toronto Raptors, were so intrigued by the couple's sign language that they created a betting pool when the Raptors played at Sacramento last November. By their count, Christie signaled his wife 62 times during the game.
"Sixty-two," Jackie said, shaking her head in a pleased manner recently as she clutched her husband's hand on the couch in their home in suburban Sacramento. "That's beautiful."
When the Kings flew to Los Angeles today for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Lakers on Friday night, Jackie was seated next to Doug, as much a part of the postseason experience as any family member in the N.B.A.
In the frenetic world of major professional sports, where athletes have trouble balancing their personal and public lives -- and the perception of don't-ask, don't-tell marriages is sometimes a reality -- the Christies have gone to great lengths to make sure their own vows are kept sacred.
With few exceptions, Doug Christie does not look at other women, avoiding dialogue or even eye contact. "Every conversation I've ever had with a woman since we've been married besides my wife she knows about," he said. "She's been there. But what are we talking about? Banking? Mortgage? Other than that, I don't have anything to say to anybody. It's taking up my time and my time is limited to basketball and my family."
The Christies, who have been married for eight years and have three children, get married on July 8 each year, their anniversary. It is not a mere renewal of their wedding vows, but an actual wedding -- replete with friends, family, cake and a reception.
This year, they will be married on the foundation of their new, not-yet-completed home in Bellevue, Wash. Christie's agent, Bradley Marshall, who is also a minister, has married them the past two years.
"At first I thought this was a little bit much, but when you see the dividends it pays, you understand," Marshall said. "They invite other married couples to the wedding, and they're very encouraged by the whole process. It's very emotional."
Jackie said she attends 25 to 30 of the Kings' 41 regular-season road games, riding on the team's charter.
"I used to tell people I was married to an athlete and they would give me that look, 'Oh, we know what he's doing,' " she said. "I don't try to explain anymore: 'Yeah, but he's different. And I travel with him and he's not like the rest.' I just know Doug is faithful."
When Christie played for the Raptors, his wife once confronted a female fan seeking an autograph and a kiss in Toronto. "A security guard grabbed her, but I put my hand up and told her to back off really loud," she said. "It scared me, because my voice sounded like a demon. It just came out. She was a pretty girl, very young. But she was touching someone she shouldn't have been."
Some wives of professional athletes focus on the perks of life in the big time: affluence, public attention, premium seats at sold-out games. Jackie Christie sees a different reality, one in which her husband and other players are battling the seduction of women who wait after games and prowl hotel lobbies.
"You see so much of that going on, you think, 'Is that going to happen to me?' " she said. "I'm fine now. I gave up trying to change things. People are going to be the way they're going to be. Now, my attitude is, whatever we have to do to keep our circle tight. Just respect what we have and our commitment."
Sustaining relationships can be difficult for N.B.A. players, said Charles Smith, a former player who was a union vice president. "Nine times out of 10, when a player gets married early in his career, he's still growing and his spouse is still growing," Smith said. "Then you have kids, and it's a very difficult juggling act. If you don't have a firm foundation to fall back on, it doesn't work."
Rick Fox, the Lakers' forward, and his wife of three years, the actress and singer Vanessa Williams, sometimes put up with a bicoastal relationship. Williams is starring on Broadway in "Into the Woods."
"I admire any N.B.A. couple that takes steps to make their relationship work because, let's face it, there are a lot of people out there who want to disrupt what we have," Fox said. "This is not the healthiest environment for a marriage. You've got to have a lot of trust to be married to any professional athlete."
Many of the game's most prominent players have taken part in the league's extravagant lifestyle. Magic Johnson acknowledged after announcing in 1991 that he had contracted H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, that he had been promiscuous. Patrick Ewing testified last year in a federal racketeering trial in Atlanta about sexual favors he received from dancers at a local strip club.
Jackie Christie arrives before games with her husband and leaves with him afterward. She sends him a note in the locker room before each game, taken there by a team attendant. He writes a reply and sends it back. Sometimes on the road, Jackie will ride in a car behind the team bus, talking to Doug on his cellphone until he arrives at the hotel or arena.
Doug Christie says he is a willing participant in these rituals. "It was hard for me to do the interview about this and say this is my life," he said. "Because some people will say: 'That's a bunch of garbage. He's lying.' But this is who I am and who we are."
During Christie's time in Toronto, Jackie was uncomfortable that women working for the Raptors went into the locker room to distribute statistics after games. So Doug began dressing in an adjacent room. An Eastern Conference team official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that he had warned the Kings about obtaining Christie two years ago because of some of the issues his wife had raised in Toronto.
"I just felt I needed to protect my territory in the beginning," Jackie said. "So I had a lot of issues. I have a jealous bone in my body, yes. It's probably as big as me. I'm very easygoing until I feel a threat."
She added: "Doug is allowed to look at females. I would prefer he didn't."
Jackie sometimes has made it clear to her husband and team employees that certain female reporters should not be allowed to interview her husband unless she is present. "If she wants an interview, I will attend it with my husband so there can be no games," she said.
Some of the Kings kid Christie about the hand signals. "Hedo will flash the sign at my wife from over on the bench," he said of Hedo Turkoglu, the Kings' swingman. "They have fun with it, but they also respect and accept it."
Christie is a versatile 6-foot-6 player who made the N.B.A.'s all-defensive team because of his long arms, quickness and desire. Off the floor, he is a laid-back 10-year veteran. Introverted outside the locker room, he is thoughtful and well read. Born to a biracial couple -- his father is black, his mother white -- Christie grew up in Seattle.
He met Jackie, a former part-time model, at a sports bar through a friend before he was drafted out of Pepperdine in 1992. He said his lifestyle was much more carefree and rambunctious before his marriage.
"Each of us has to go through and find our own way and mine was the route that I took," he said. "We all have choices, and the choices I was making back then were not the ones I would want to teach to my children."
Asked if he considered his current behavior drastic, Christie shook his head no. "It's not that I'm not allowed to look at women, it's just respect," he said. "I choose this. There is nothing out there for me to want or try to go after. That's not what I'm trying to be about."
The Christies say their behavior has not been influenced by a religious sect or a life-altering event.
"I really can't explain it to you, except one day we were in the driveway of our Seattle home before I got married and all of a sudden all these revelations started coming to me in 1994," Christie said. "It came from God. I used to tell her, 'I know where I want to go, but I don't know how to get there.' Everything became clear when I told her I wanted to marry her. The life I was leading before I didn't want anymore."
Jackie looked approvingly at her husband and smiled. "I get a lot of women who asked me, 'How did you get Doug to act that way?' "
He said: "Our love is boundless and free. For me, it doesn't feel like a restriction. It's a lifestyle, the way we live. So it's easy. It's not, 'You can't do this, you can't do that.' "