*ESPN spent all day Tuesday debating the word “posse” after legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson used the term rather to describe LeBron James’ business partners – a characterization that James found highly offensive and racist.
“Zero,” James said Tuesday, when asked if he had any previous ties to Jackson. “No relationship at all. I had nothing but respect for him as a coach for what he was able to do. Obviously he was at the helm of [the team featuring] my favorite player of all time [Michael Jordan], and also being there growing up and watching him with the Lakers, but I got nothing for him.”
Jackson, in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan published this week, made the statement while discussing James’ move from the Miami Heat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and what it meant for the tenure of Heat president Pat Riley:
“It had to hurt when they lost LeBron,” Jackson said. “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.”
James’ business associate Maverick Carter found Jackson’s use of “posse” troubling, telling ESPN on Monday that he felt compelled to respond, citing the recent debate around coded language.
“It’s the word ‘posse’ and the characterization I take offense to,” Carter said. “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.”
James elaborated on the subject Tuesday morning.
“I’ve been in the league for 14 years and from the beginning two years in, I felt like I wanted to put my guys in positions of power, give those guys an opportunity to better themselves,” James said. “You know, in the beginning we were highly criticized and I was highly criticized about what I wanted to do to help some guys around me become very successful in business.
“It just sucks that now at this point having one of the biggest businesses you can have both on and off the floor, having a certified agent in Rich Paul, having a certified business partner in Maverick Carter that’s done so many great business [deals], that the title for young African-Americans is the word ‘posse.'”
Carter oversees the entertainment aspects of James’ off-court interests; Paul represents James as his agent and runs the Klutch Sports Group, which counts many other NBA players as clients; and Randy Mims is the executive administrator of player programs and logistics for the Cavs.
“We see the success that we have, but then there is always someone that lets you know still how far we still have to go as African-Americans,” James said.
“But it won’t stop us from doing what we need to do as a group,” he added. “We’re not going to let Phil Jackson’s comments stop us from doing what we need to do. It just gives us extra motivation. But it’s still sad.”
James said he didn’t think Jackson would use the term “posse” to describe a powerful sports figure who isn’t African-American.
“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. “It’s not what I stand for, it’s not what my family stands for. I believe the only reason he used that word is because he sees young African-Americans trying to make a difference.”
James was asked if there was any correlation between Donald Trump winning the presidential election and Jackson’s sentiments.
“I don’t know,” James said. “It could be a reach. But at the same time … it could not be a reach. You don’t know what the direct correlation is, but I know how hard I work, I know how much I sacrifice, I know I show up to work every single day and I know I put my team and every franchise I’ve been on — from the Heat to here — before me because I’ve only cared about one thing. And that’s winning.
“I’ve tried to put my guys in position to where they can walk in a meeting and go places and they don’t need me because they got to a point where they’ve done their homework, they’ve studied on what they want to do and they can hold a meeting without me because of the respect that they have and the knowledge they have. That’s just 12 years of hard work and dedication that we put to each other. I know Phil’s in a position of power in our sport, but to criticize me and my guys over that is nonsense.”
Watch LeBron’s comments in the video below, which includes clips showing debate over Jackson’s use of the word “posse” throughout the day on ESPN: