Phil Jackson‘s place in basketball history is a safe as safe can be.
The legendary head coach 11 NBA Championship rings as a coach for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He also has two more as a player with the New York Knicks.
The “Zen Master” also entered the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2007.
But, somewhat surprisingly, he says he hasn’t watched an NBA game since the bubble playoffs. And he has a strange reason why.
Jackson explained his reasoning on the “Tetragrammation with Rick Rubin” podcast.
“They had things on their back like ‘Justice’ and a funny thing happened like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity knocked him down,'” Jackson said to Rubin. “…Some of my grandkids thought it was pretty funny to play up those names; I couldn’t watch that.”
Jackson was talking about league’s decision to allow players to wear select slogans on jerseys following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. He says the decision may have done more harm than good.
“It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game,” Jackson said, “and they didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political. Politics stays out of the game; it doesn’t need to be there.”
The full sound bite can be found below:
Phil Jackson says he doesn’t like basketball’s evolution & doesn’t watch anymore, thought the Bubble & political slogans on jerseys was “wanky” and made fun of it with his grandchildren
was listening to his new interview with Rick Rubin & thought it was interesting. pic.twitter.com/FVBpdnuCFj
— Clique Productions (@ImClique_) April 20, 2023
Of course, the metrics tend to disagree with Jackson’s assertion. The NBA managed viewership growth in 2022-23 despite ratings declining for television across the board. It also set a new record for attendance league-wide.
Basketball fans didn’t hesitate to let Jackson know their feelings on his comments, either.
Feels cowardly to mock black athletes when your entire reputation – and bank account – is built off their hard work and talent. https://t.co/IA5vn0o0eN
— Max Power (@jro_27) April 22, 2023
Phil Jackson is an old racist that’s been riddled with health issues so I hope his grandkids do find him funny because he’s on his way out of here! People like Phil Jackson, George Karl, even Stockton and Malone aren’t missed in the NBA! https://t.co/TTyJo755Q0
— GoodSense (@Since19854) April 20, 2023
phil is just lying. his issue is not with “politics” in sports regardless of the message, his issue is with that specific activist message being sent. but he knows saying that would be unpalatable so he takes the cowards way out and raises a vague concern about “politics” https://t.co/q6MeEYJMXy
— jee-hoon (@parkjeehn) April 20, 2023
Yeah I knew Phil Jackson was trash
America has never had a problem with mixing sports and “politics” – they just don’t like it when the “politics” knock on their own doors https://t.co/7Si8jTxiD4
— Anthony Sain (@SainAsylum) April 22, 2023
The jokes came shortly thereafter.
I knew it https://t.co/nRN2m8V3ZO pic.twitter.com/C1U0PzucGz
— Stone Cold Shea Jackson (@OsheaJacksonJr) April 22, 2023
Phil Jackson seeing those slogans on the court.. https://t.co/LHgPzN39zO pic.twitter.com/CTjpdz52k7
— The Kumite.. it’s really, real (@Lizzs_Lockeroom) April 22, 2023
Phil is about 2 interviews away from telling us where he was on January 6th https://t.co/lLR6DTALCc
— Dr. Jason Johnson (@DrJasonJohnson) April 22, 2023
Phil Jackson he saw “End Racism” on the baseline pic.twitter.com/XUYpPJXoL4 https://t.co/SPaiOSSo6L
— Playoff KM™ (@Kh1man) April 22, 2023
Jackson has never had an issue with speaking his mind. But he may wish he kept this one to himself.