When we passed along some of the highlights from Phil Jackson‘s interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan on Monday, we didn’t include a comment from the Knicks president on LeBron James. Jackson suggested that the reigning NBA Finals MVP “likes special treatment” and “needs things his way” when he discussed LeBron’s 2014 departure from Miami.
“There were a lot of little things that came out of that,” Jackson said. “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 [head coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text [president Pat] 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.”
As Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com tweets, James addressed those comments today, telling reporters that he “had nothing but respect” for Jackson as a coach. Asked to clarify his use of the past tense, LeBron confirmed that he no longer has that same level of respect for the Knicks president. The Cavs star also took exception with Jackson’s use of the word “posse” to describe James’ camp.
“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,” James said, per Jordan Heck of The Sporting News (Twitter link). “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.”
Maverick Carter, one of LeBron’s business partners, also took exception to Jackson’s comments, according to McMenamin: “It’s the word ‘posse’ and the characterization I take offense to. If he would have said LeBron and his agent, LeBron and his business partners, or LeBron and his friends, that’s one thing. Yet because you’re young and black, he can use that word. We’re grown men.”
While a conflict with a rival player won’t necessarily have any short-term negative impact on Jackson and the Knicks, it’s not a great look for a team executive who will be trying to recruit players in free agency in the summer. It’s also worth noting that Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is close friends with James, and probably wouldn’t be thrilled to be caught between the two.