In keeping with the tone of political conflict that has saturated our consciousness for more than a year, we now have an overblown impasse between the two most self-involved entities in another industry.
LeBron James, the embodiment of narcissistic self-importance among NBA players, claims outrage at the use of the word “posse” by Knicks president Phil Jackson to describe James’ very professional, very non-posse-like inner circle.
Jackson, the embodiment of narcissistic self-importance among NBA coaches and executives, used the offensive term in an interview with a television rights-holder, ESPN, that ran Monday. Jackson, in the third year of a 5-year, $60 million contract, has not spoken with the press that regularly covers the team in almost 2 month and ignored them again at practice Wednesday. He remains essentially, arrogantly silent in the wake of his latest misstep, obliquely re-tweeting an endorsement of a foundation whose name includes "posse."
Certainly, James has every right to feel slighted by Jackson. He is a young American black man who has done everything in his limited capacities to be a good role model as he represents a segment of the population that too often is unfairly cast as an erosive societal burden. The term “posse” conjures images of Allen Iverson’s cadre of questionable associates and carries overtones of irresponsibility and, for some, criminality.
Jackson knows this. He might one day leave his cocoon of pseudo-intellectualist dogma and protest to LeBron that he meant no offense, but he will be lying. Jackson’s not as smart as he wants you to think he is, but he’s smart enough to understand the implications of using the word “posse.”
It’s relevant, too, that Jackson used “posse” in the denigratory context of painting James as a difficult and entitled teammate. This is not the first time Jackson has used James’ career as an example of what he considers an ever poorer version of the NBA game. He seems oddly fixated on the King.
Does this mean Jackson, who presents a markedly liberal front (but actually has byzantine political views), is a closet racist? Probably not.
Does this mean Jackson, who demanded cultish commitment from his players when he coached the Bulls and Lakers, is ever more frustrated with the LeBron-led sea change in the NBA in which star players dictate everything from team composition to travel schedules? Probably. Jackson now oversees Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, headstrong stars who have seldom placed the greater good of the team ahead of their own best interests.
James’ “posse” is a small group of confidantes that have protected and represented James since 2006, three years after he entered the NBA as a high school prodigy. Maverick Carter, his business manager, first bristled at Jackson’s comments Monday. James addressed them Tuesday, saying (regrettably) that he’d lost respect for Jackson.
Anthony also spoke about the matter Tuesday, agreeing with LeBron that the coded term would upset him, too.
This, sadly, will fester. James, 31, lacks the sophistication and the humility to allow it to pass. Jackson, 71, lacks the self-awareness and the humility to admit wrongdoing. The Cavaliers visit the Knicks on Dec. 7.
It is interesting to note that James’ loss of respect for Jackson centers around the relatively inconsequential use of a tired, loaded term. That’s because, in the same article, Jackson admits that he hasn’t voted for President since before James was born, not since Jimmy Carter lost in 1980.
James endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the recent election.