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Phil Jackson: The Human Bermuda Triangle

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I cannot peg Phil Jackson.

His morality and character have become a complete and utter mystery to me. He’s one of the greatest basketball minds of all time, one of the winningest coaches in history, and one of the weirdest outliers the game has ever seen.

The son of two ministers from rural Montana, a gangly mop headed white dude that emerged as a spiritual zealot with a radical approach to winning and shelves full of far eastern knowledge. An amazing aggregator of talent and an astute listener, but sometimes a close-minded and aloof critic. Somebody whose gigantic, moccasin wearing foot has been placed in his mouth more than once.

In Jackson’s 2011 book Eleven Rings he recounts each of his winning seasons in great detail. Storied waltzes that would have you believe his teams were mostly upstanding guys who played ball the right way, even when old school gamesmanship and The Jordan Rules got in the way. That’s a nice angle (shoutout to triangles), but Bill Cartwright’s wandering elbows, Michael’s infamous trash talk, Kobe’s 2003 court case, and Dennis Rodman’s whole existence may speak directly against that.

Phil landed in hot water recently via an ESPN article where he refers to LeBron James’ lifelong support system as a “posse”, a dated term with unflattering and frankly racist implications.

 

Phil knew he was going to stir up some attention. But I imagine he looks back on this wishing he was listening to a Grateful Dead concert on eight track, instead of sounding like a backwards old man feeding the New York media’s appetite.

That being said, I have a hard time believing that someone who spent 30 plus years of his life drilling the importance of Native American and Asian philosophy into his teams that were comprised of 76% African Americans could actually be a racist. Instead, I think that the highly enigmatic, borderline priggish mind that is Jackson has been operating all of these years without us realizing he’s at least a bit of a jerk. Why do you think players like Rodman, Kobe, and Michael respected him so much? Takes one to coach one. Jerks are found in every vocation; persons at every level of enlightenment can be one, and this is doubly so in the ego-driven world of professional sports.

When Phil says something dumb, that’s perceived as racist in a time of great political upheaval and social awakening, I don’t think we should be surprised.

Two jerks

Two jerks

    

Historically, Jackson has always attempted to ensure media immunity in his locker room, protecting his players from the prying eyes, recording devices, and harsh words of the media, while at the same time harping on opposing players and coaches for their indiscretions to any reporter with a credential around his or her neck.

The most notable example came when his Lakers met Phoenix in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. When asked if it was hard to simulate Suns All-Star Steve Nash’s game in practice, saying “Yeah, because you can’t carry the ball like he does in practice, you can’t pick that ball up and run with it.”

Another, more ridiculous account of Phil’s big mouth is the time he took out his frustration with the way the Kings were playing his Lakers. When asked whether they were the most energetic fans he had ever seen Phil said, “I coached basketball in Puerto Rico, where if you won on a visiting floor your tires were slashed and you might be chased out of town with rocks breaking the windows of your car.” Jackson continued, ”But, we’re talking about semi-civilized in Sacramento. Those people are just redneck in some form or fashion. That’s their team, their game, the one game in town. What else do they play? Picking fruits and vegetables?”

Yikes Phil, why don’t you tell us how you really feel about the town? Backlash from this followed him for the entirety of his time with The Lakers; a lot of sports fans in Sacramento still hate the man to this day. Can you blame them?

In the end, the man is a psychological enigma; keeping his inner self a total mystery. Becoming a master at divisiveness, hypocrisy, media manipulation, and meticulously shaped facial hair along the way.

There’s a reason HBO called it’s show Entourage rather than Posse, and even Zen Masters have moments of ignorance.

Phil Jackson truly is the human Bermuda Triangle.

Avery is a standup comedian and writer based in Calgary, Alberta. He first turned to writing after losing his jump shot in a tragic accident involving not playing basketball for six straight summers. His op-ed pieces about the NBA's most polarizing figures have been a reliable source of sighs, scoffs and subtweets. Avery has a passion for character issues, ill-advised fadeaways, throwback jerseys and any basketball player who keeps his chains on during pregame shoot-around.

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Below the Hardwood

Kyrie The Crusader

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Below The Hardwood
Kyrie The Crusader
Below The Hardwood Kyrie The Crusader

In episode 2, the team gives their thoughts on the crusade led by Kyrie Irving to keep the 19-20 NBA season cancelled amidst the social injustice and Covid-19.  As the league prepares for the return of the season, the crew ponders whether Kyrie and others have a good argument on why continuing the season could be a distraction to bigger issues and if the league does return which teams, players are you looking forward to watching in the new 8 game format.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
  • @RAHenry
  • @alanshane
  • @livingmydexlife 

Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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Below the Hardwood

The COVID Special

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The Break
USA vs Everybody | Episode 17
The Break USA vs Everybody | Episode 17

For the first time in over 4 years BTH is back to talk the best in the NBA as they always do….

Social distancing style!

In this episode the team, the homies and  the compadres give their takes on “The Last Dance” MJ Doc; who’s really behind it?, the 2020 NBA season; will it return and which players need it bad, who is the season MVP, would be playoff match ups for east and west conference finals and who would have ultimately won the NBA Finals had it not been for the pandemic of Covid-19.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
  • @RAHenry
  • @alanshane
  • @livingmydexlife

Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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Featured Article

Ride The Wave

Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers. Things were good then.

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Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers, drawing in a decent support team and a lot of talk that the West was looking incredibly dominant next to a “weaker” East. Things were good then.

Five months later and things couldn’t be farther from that idylistic picture. The East thrived without the King and GMs put together some of the most noteworthy teams in a while. And the Lakers? The Lakers currently sit in the 11th spot of the Western Conference with very little hope of making it to the playoffs. They’re a team that is constantly attacked for their lack of chemistry, skill, and effort. For the first time in a long time, LA became synonymous with “hopeless”.

This wasn’t the future we saw for the King.

On the heels of a night filled with one of his greatest achievements ever, the Lakers as a team walked away with a loss to the Denver Nuggets. A night that began on a high note went out on one that was equivalent to sour candy. Furthermore, a frustrated team left an arena, hopped on social media, and found a bevy of congrats for their star player, while enduring the storm that came with another Lakers loss.

It seems that James’ stardom has reached a tipping point, one that makes him a GM one moment, the King of the league the next, and finally the biggest point of contention within the locker room. The most notable thing is that it is clearly wearing him down. Chris Martin let us know that “nobody one said it was easy”, but you’ve got to ask yourself, does it have to be so hard?

The answer is unfortunately, yes. It’s always going to be this way, and there is no fighting the current, but there is beauty in riding the wave. Embracing that moment when the wave comes crashing down on you is important, because it’s always going to happen, but your attitude will always be remembered. LeBron rides high, and keeps things in the positive light for the media, but he’s got to realize that they are writing his story, and he doesn’t have to play into their’s. Ride the wave, and take the loss in stride with all the great that has come with it, but take the loss because your part of a team that is.

The wave has crashed down, but the current will bring another.

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