NBA coaching legend and current New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson likes to run his mouth. He hangs on to grudges, fosters fresh beefs, and never lets the world forget that his is an unparalleled basketball righteousness. His media screeds were tolerated for two decades when his Bulls and Lakers teams were kicking ass. The main difference between then and now is that as a coach he had the best players and pissed off the lesser-talented; now he has a sub-.500 squad and is pissing off the likes of LeBron James.
Jackson has drawn the ire of the best player on Earth thanks to a lengthy interview with ESPN's Jackie MacMullin in which he discussed Pat Riley's failures in keeping the Big Three-era Miami Heat together:
"When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland and he wanted to spend the night. They don't do overnights. Teams just don't. 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 can't hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland.
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."
First LeBron's friend and business partner Maverick Carter took issue with Jackson using the word "posse":
All the hard work,effort and achievement and @PhilJackson11 still calls us a "posse"every step you take they remind you, you ghetto" @S_C_ pic.twitter.com/OPsPvAvFoM
— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 14, 2016
And then LeBron really dropped the hammer, saying that he had lost respect for Jackson:
LeBron on Phil Jackson: "I had nothing but respect for him as a coach …"
Q: "Had respect?"
Q: "Until now?"
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 15, 2016
He went on to explain his distaste for the word:
LeBron James explained his problem with Phil Jackson's "posse" label referring to him and his business associates: "To use that label, and if you go and read the definition of what the word 'posse' is, it's not what I've built over my career. It's not what I stand for. It's not what my family stands for. And I believe the only reason he used that word is because it's young African-Americans trying to make a difference."
Was Jackson's use of the word racially-motivated? To many in the sports world, "posse" calls to mind a gaggle of hangers-on surrounding a young, black athlete. Maverick Carter is not simply a hanger-on. Neither is LeBron associate Rich Paul, a certified agent who represents several NBA players. At the very least, it's not a good look for a team president to be antagonizing powerful agents and calling out mega stars as prima donnas.
Whether or not Jackson intended it that way, his words stuck in the craw of several people, including his own star player (and LeBron's best friend) Carmelo Anthony:
I think we all can agree with Melo on this point: Phil should not be talking about LeBron at the moment. The Cavaliers already spanked the Knicks on Opening Night, and there's no need to hand that guy any extra motivation to humiliate New York even further when they meet again on Dec. 7.