This one of those stories where your first reaction might be ‘Damn, I know Phil Jackson ain’t a racist, is he?’
Phil was the man who got the best out of Michael Jordan, coaching the NBA’s greatest player of all-time, and Scottie Pippen, arguably the greatest “Robin” to six rings during their dynastic run in the ’90s.
He coached Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles as well, leading the Lakers to five championships. Those now transcendent NBA legends were young men under his tutelage.
He was also an NBA player for 13 years and won two rings with the New York Knicks, playing alongside the likes of Willis Reed, Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, aka Black Jesus. As many accomplished black males as Phil Jackson knows, you would think he would have some inkling of how the minds of high-achieving brothers operate.
Judging by a recent statement made to journalist Jackie MacMullan, he apparently does not.
Here’s what Jackson had to say about LeBron James when recalling his departure from South Beach: When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland and he wanted to spend the night. They dont do overnights. Teams just dont. So now [coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, What do I do in this situation? And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, You are on the plane, you are with this team. You cant hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland.”
But wait, there’s more. He should have stopped at bringing up his Moms and his business partners.
“I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys. But something happened there where it broke down. I do know LeBron likes special treatment. He needs things his way.
For LeBron James, a man who has taken meticulous care in crafting his image as a businessman and philanthropist, Jackson’s words didn’t go over well. LeBron responded with verbal thunder reminiscent of his rim-rocking throwdowns.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview conducted following Cleveland Cavaliers shoot around earlier today: “I’ve been in this league 14 years and from the beginning, two years in, I felt like that I wanted to put my guys in a position of power and give those guys an opportunity to better themselves. And you know, in the beginning we were highly criticized and I was highly criticized about what I wanted to do to help some guys around me become very successful in business. And, you know, it just sucks that now at this point, having one of the biggest businesses that you can have both on and off the floor, having a certified agent in Rich Paul, having a certified business partner in Maverick Carter that has done so many great businesses, that the title for young African-Americans is the word “posse.” So, for me, we see the success that we had, but then there’s always someone that lets you know how far we still have to go as African-Americans.”
In choosing to label Maverick Carter and Rich Paul as simply part of LeBron’s “Posse”, Jackson’s nonchalant hubris may have irrevocably burned a bridge with the this era’s best player.
So far, the jury is still out of Jackson’s performance as the GM of the New York Knicks. His job is to bring talent to the Garden and prior to drafting Kristops Porzingis last year, as well as acquiring Derek Rose and Joakim Noah this year, he hasn’t been very successful.
Jackson seriously fronted on LeBron, and all the other brothers he has played with and coached over the years.
In an era of supposed increased racial sensitivity, as well as great strides being made daily to combat stereotypical thinking, one would have hoped a man they call “The Zen Master” would at least be smart enough not to call intelligent, accomplished, and flourishing black men a posse.
Phil Jackson has spent his entire professional life around black people. What’s universal is that none of them liked, like or ever will like being stereotyped and smacked with careless labels. You’d think, with all of his supposed knowledge, that he would’ve known at least that much.