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Phil Jackson remains cryptic in Twitter response to LeBron James ‘posse’ criticism

Phil Jackson remains cryptic in Twitter response to LeBron James ‘posse’ criticism

The past 48 hours have been quite a whirlwind for New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson, whose ill-conceived “posse” comments about LeBron James and his business partner friends during a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday with one of the NBA’s great columnists, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, led to one of the league’s greatest players losing respect for one of the game’s greatest coaches.

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As the issue unraveled on Tuesday, the often outspoken Jackson remained mum following the interview and subsequent criticism from the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar, his primary business partner, Maverick Carter, and another friend, Carmelo Anthony, who just so happens to play for the Knicks. However, Jackson did offer a subtle response on Wednesday morning, however cryptic, by retweeting an earlier Twitter post by Knicks vice president of player personnel Clarence Gaines Jr.

So we’re clear, this is the exchange between Jackson and MacMullan that stirred this controversy:

Since then, Gaines and Jackson directed their Twitter followers to The Posse Foundation, a charitable organization that “identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes,” pairs them with other such students on “multicultural teams — Posses — of 10 students” and works with colleges to award them four-year scholarships. This is not unlike the charitable work done by the LeBron James Family Foundation or the business partnerships James built with high school friends at LRMR Management.

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The tweet from Gaines came before James publicly criticized Jackson for using a term he deemed disparaging to the successful partnership he formed with his African-American childhood friends, but after one such friend, Carter, took to Twitter and described Jackson’s phraseology as “disrespectful.”

And Jackson’s retweet of Gaines followed extensive comments from both James and Anthony on the racial undertones of a word that is often used to describe less successful family and friends living off the considerable paychecks of black athletes. As Anthony said on Tuesday afternoon, “I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist or an educated person to understand what that means to us.”

It is important to note Carter specifically said, “I’m not saying Phil Jackson is racist,” and Anthony expressed similar sentiment. However, the comment is racially motivated, at least in James’ eyes.

What Gaines, who is black, and Jackson, who is white, meant by their respective tweet and retweet leaves too much to the imagination. Perhaps they were pointing to an alternative definition of posse: “a group of people who have a common characteristic, occupation, or purpose.” Or maybe this was some form of an apology for Jackson’s remarks, suggesting a donation to this charity might alleviate some of the expressed concerns. We do not know what they meant, because they have not said. Jackson has neither clarified his comments nor apologized to James publicly since. Only a retweet.

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I think we can all agree Jackson wasn’t, as some on social media have suggested, referring to this third definition of posse: “the body of men in a county whom the sheriff could summon to enforce the law.” Jackson made pretty clear his definition of posse as it relates to James in an excerpt from his book “The Last Season” on the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers, uncovered by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols:

Given the empire James has built on and off the court alongside childhood friends Carter, Rich Paul and Randy Mims, it’s become abundantly clear the quartet once known as the Four Horsemen has indeed developed over the past 12 years into “mature, self-sufficient human beings.” Little did Jackson know his use of posse then and now would be what’s causing more psychological damage.

More NBA coverage:

The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski discusses the lack of success Phil Jackson has had as the Knick’ president of basketball operations.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!


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