Greatest Coach in NBA History Refuses to Watch League After Social Justice-Tinged Disney 'Bubble'
Phil Jackson, the legendary former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, has had the best seat in the house to watch some of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.
En route to winning 11 championships as coach, the most of any coach in history (he was also on two championship-winning teams as a player), Jackson has helped guide and nurture NBA royalty such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. There are few figures in the annals of pro basketball who have a greater appreciation for the sport.
And yet, the Hall of Fame coach revealed on a recent episode of the “Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin” podcast that he hasn’t bothered to watch much basketball in a couple of years — and it’s largely due to social justice activism.
Rubin, a legend in his own right as a co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, and Jackson covered a wide range of topics on the April 5 episode of the podcast, but it’s the topic of left-leaning politics that had garnered the most attention.
WARNING: The following podcast contains language that the listener may find offensive
“Some of the guys I coached [are saying], ‘They’re talented Phil,'” Jackson said, with “they” being the current crop of NBA stars. “‘They’re really talented players.'”
Jackson’s response to the suggestion that he watch some modern basketball?
“I know, but I’m not enjoying the games; ‘That’s too bad,'” Jackson said. “There’s a new generation that’ll like it. They like the game.”
Rubin then asked Jackson point blank: “Do you still watch a lot of basketball?”
“No, I don’t,” Jackson responded.
Rubin asked for clarification, asking if this was a more recent development or if Jackson stopped immediately after coaching. (Jackson last coached in the NBA in 2011, though he has flirted with several head coaching positions since then.)
Jackson was able to trace his displeasure with the league back to Mickey Mouse, noting that he still still watched basketball in the immediate aftermath of his coaching career.
“I watched some of the game evolve,” Jackson said before trailing he off. “They went into the lockout year, they and did something that was kind of wanky; they did a bubble down in Orlando.”
For the unaware, the NBA had its season cut short in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but ultimately resumed and finished the season in a special “bubble” (select courts and facilities) at Disney World.
“They had things on their back like, you know ‘Justice,'” Jackson said. “I made a little [joke] like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down.'”
Dad jokes aside, the Orlando bubble was indeed the most politicized the NBA had ever been, with social justice slogans replacing last names on the backs of jerseys, players kneeling, and “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the court.
“So I couldn’t watch that,” Jackson said, before noting that he at least saw the results (LeBron James and the Lakers, Jackson’s former team, won the championship in the bubble that year.)
“What do you think it was that turned you off?” Rubin asked.
“It was, uh,” Jackson pondered a bit, before elaborating on the social justice elements that had inundated the NBA Playoffs that year.
“They even had slogans on the floor [and] on the baseline. It was catering. It was trying to cater to an audience. They’re trying to bring a certain audience into play. They didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political.”
While those remarks are obviously garnering most of the headlines, there were a few other interesting nuggets in the podcast that would make it worth a listen to any lapsed fan of basketball who pine for the days of the sport being “non-political.”
Those anecdotes include the one player whom Jackson felt had the tools to be just as good as Bryant or Jordan (Vince Carter), or how he motivated an overweight O’Neal to his MVP season in 2000 by telling him that Wilt Chamberlain once “played over 48 minutes a game.” NBA games are 48 minutes long.
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