Phil Jackson Comments on Using Word 'Posse' to Describe LeBron James' Associates

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson speaks with the media att Madison Square Garden training center on July 8, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith        (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
BRYAN R. SMITH/Getty Images

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson appeared on CBS Sports Network's We Need To Talk on Dec. 6 and offered his first public comments on his decision to use the word "posse" when describing LeBron James' associates, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com.

Herbert noted that host Lisa Leslie asked Jackson if he would like to take back his remark. Jackson replied:

That's a topic I'm not going to discuss because, one, we're not supposed to discuss other team's players in this position that I have here. So I violated one of the tenets of our thing. And the obvious thing is, the word itself carries connotation. And I just don't understand that part of it, the word. So I guess word choice could be something I could regret.

Jackson didn't have an issue discussing the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar during an interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com in November, when he criticized James and used the word: "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 do know LeBron likes special treatment."

The Cavaliers were in New York for a game against the Knicks on Dec. 7, and James said he was not interested in discussing Jackson's use of the word with the former coach while he and his teammates were there, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.ย 

James also pointed to the racial undertones of the word, per McMenamin: "Didn't affect me, just know how much further we still have to go and how far we still have to go as African-Americans, even in the light of today."

James previously said of Jackson, "I believe the only reason he used that word is because it's young African-Americans trying to make a difference," per Jordan Heckย of Sporting News.

McMenamin noted that James lost respect for Jackson because of the comment:

Dave McMenamin @mcten

LeBron on Phil Jackson: "I had nothing but respect for him as a coach ..." Q: "Had respect?" LeBron: "Yeah" Q: "Until now?" LeBron: "Yeah"

Jay Z spoke about Jackson when introducing James as Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year on Monday, Dec. 12, according to ESPN.com's Ian Begley:

Jay Z described James as "the son who honors and worships his mother, Gloria. The friend who put his posse in position." The crowd laughed when the rapper referenced the term.

"We know where we come from. We do understand where we come from," Jay Z said. "The only difference between us and someone who has their MBA from Wharton or Sloan or Berkeley or Stanford is opportunity. LeBron James has provided his friends with that opportunity, and we've witnessed their development. And if we're to look up at the scoreboard, very few businessmen are better than Maverick Carter, Rich Paul, Randy Mims and all the rest of the posse behind the scenes that make it look like they're just hanging out."

On Dec. 6, Jackson called it "water under the bridge," per Herbert.

Herbert made it clear that Jackson's comments on We Need To Talk did not constitute an actual apology in his eyes. The Knicks president didn't even explicitly say he was sorry for the meaning, sentiment or racial undertones of the word and simply said word choice was something he "could" regret.

Jackson's comments were in the news cycle again because of the meeting at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and Cavaliers. It will likely continue to be a story anytime the two franchises cross paths this season, and they play two more times in February.


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