LeBron James, along with business partner and longtime friend Maverick Carter, reacted negatively when NBA legend and current Knicks President Phil Jackson characterized LeBron’s friends as his “posse.”
In an interview with ESPN, NBA columnist Jackie MacMullan asked Jackson if he could imagine Michael Jordan leaving his team the way LeBron left Cleveland over six years ago. Jackson answered, “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.”
This answer from Jackson led to an angry Twitter response from Carter:
— Maverick Carter (@mavcarter) November 14, 2016
LeBron told reporters that he saw race behind Jackson’s use of that word: “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. 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.”
LeBron further said he lost respect for Phil Jackson:
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
While the definition of a “posse” does refer to a group of armed men, it doesn’t refer to an armed group of criminals. The term references a group of armed men banding together to enforce the law, such as in the Western movie “Posse From Hell,” where WWII hero Audie Murphy forms a posse to go hunt down the murderers who killed a sheriff and kidnapped a woman.
Hint: Audie Murphy and most of the posse were white.
So, as an old-school kind of guy, perhaps Phil Jackson used that word because he knew it had nothing to do with race, and couldn’t possibly construe as racist.
Regardless, Phil Jackson spent his entire adult life playing and coaching in a league that is well over 70 percent black. Given that, it flies in the face of all reason for Maverick Carter, LeBron James, or anyone else to label Phil Jackson as a racist or believe that he would use any word based on skin color.
LeBron and Carter’s anger likely arose not from the word “posse,” but instead from the “slap in the face” comment. LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland in 2010, though ultimately a good thing for him and for Cleveland, led to tremendous backlash both locally and nationally.
For the first time in LeBron’s life he became the villain, a role he embraced in a few commercials before ultimately deciding that wasn’t for him. The way he handled the move to Miami and the backlash that ensued resulted in the lowest valley of LeBron’s otherwise peak-filled career.
Jackson’s reminder that the Cleveland departure acted as a “slap in the face,” in addition to airing the dirty laundry of LeBron and his entourage attempting to make their own travel plans while in Cleveland, probably didn’t sit too well.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn