Phil Jackson is up to his old tricks, this time taking a subtle and very unnecessary shot at LeBron James and his inner circle when speaking to ESPN earlier this week.
This isn’t the first time Jackson has spoken out on something he’s disliked about James. In June 2015, while discussing his displeasure with the current style of basketball within the NBA, Jackson had some comments about one of the games greatest ever players.
“I watch LeBron James, for example,” Jackson said. “He might [travel] every other time he catches the basketball if he’s off the ball. He catches the ball, moves both his feet. You see it happen all the time. There’s no structure, there’s no discipline, there’s no ‘How do we play this game’ type of attitude. And it goes all the way through the game. To the point where now guys don’t screen—they push guys off with their hands.”
“The game actually has some beauty to it, and we’ve kind of taken some of that out of it to make it individualized,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of who we are as a country, individualized stuff.”
For someone of his stature and reputation within the league, it was quite frankly a ridiculous thing to say as travelling violations occur every single night in the NBA. What’s more bizarre, is the player he’s singled out. Not just anyone, but the face of the league.
Jackson was at it again, this time when speaking to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in an interview discussing the Miami Heat situation with Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade. In a conversation about Wade’s departure to Chicago due to a breakdown in communication with Riley, the subject swiftly changed to LeBron, and how his time in Miami eventually effected Wade’s decision.
M: It all started when LeBron left, right? Could you have ever imagined Earvin Johnson leaving Riley, or Michael Jordan leaving you?
PJ: It had to hurt when they lost LeBron. That was definitely a slap in the face. But there were a lot of little things that came out of that. 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.
It is quite an accusation to claim James was an instrumental part of Wade’s eventual departure, but Jackson had no hesitation in stating so. For someone who has no affiliation with James whatsoever, it is surprising that Jackson often speaks out on LeBron as if they have ties on a personal level.
One could wonder if it goes a little deeper, with James challenging the legacy of one of his greatest coaching talents in Michael Jordan, however he’ll never admit it, and we’ll never know for sure.
It looks as though Jackson has had something against James for some time now, but perhaps he should be focusing his attention on the Knicks and their struggles, instead of calling out the best player in the world again.