LeBron James said on Tuesday that he has lost respect for New York Knicks President Phil Jackson, a legendary NBA figure with 13 rings to his credit, after Jackson used the word “posse” to describe James’s close colleagues, adding that he believes that word was chosen because the group is African American.
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
“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,” James said (via Sporting News’s Jordan Heck). “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.”
Jackson made the comments on Monday during a lengthy ESPN Q&A, when offering up some eyebrow-raising thoughts about James’s departure from the Miami Heat. Jackson criticized James for demanding “special treatment,” and used an example of James traveling with the Heat to face the Cavaliers in James’s home state, where James apparently demanded that he get to spend an extra night.
“You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland,” Jackson said.
The use of the word posse immediately irked James’s longtime friend and business partner, Maverick Carter, who posted an image of the dictionary definition of “posse” to Twitter.
— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 14, 2016
Carter decried Jackson’s use of the word despite “all the hard work, effort and achievement” by himself, James and their colleagues, adding, “Every step you take they remind you, you ghetto.”
Carter grew up with James in Akron, Ohio, and he has gone on to become a key partner with the NBA superstar on a number of business ventures. The pair founded LRMR Marketing, along with two other longtime friends, Rich Paul and Randy Mims, and Carter is credited with helping James attain great off-court success. (Carter also received blame for the widely panned “Decision” TV special.)
“I don’t care that [Jackson] talks about LeBron,” Carter told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “He could say he’s not that good or the greatest in the world as a basketball player. I wouldn’t care. 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.”
Unlike James, who pointed out what he believes are racial undertones in Jackson’s word choice, Carter said on Twitter that he didn’t consider Jackson to have engaged in “racist” behavior.
Let me be clear I'm not saying @PhilJackson11 is racist,, I'm calling out his disrespectful language
— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 15, 2016
Neither Carter nor James commented on the rest of Jackson’s comments, specifically that James demanded “special treatment.”
Jackson’s original comment came up in the interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, when commenting about one of his few peers, Heat President Pat Riley. Here’s what he said in full:
“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.”
The comments have brought a wave of criticism toward Jackson.
Losing respect, I think, is a bit dramatic. But it is worth pointing out they don't even fit the most innocent of posse definitions
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) November 15, 2016
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) November 15, 2016
The fact LeBron is best friends with Carmelo shouldn't be a problem for Phil Jackson at all. Not at all. What a completely unnecessary mess. https://t.co/MH5UpeH4rd
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 15, 2016