I can’t think of another figure in American sport who has a persona based in such unreality as Phil Jackson. He’s nurtured an image of himself as some left-leaning progressive Zen guru all based on the fact that he looked like an Animal House-era Donald Sutherland when he played, dabbled in Buddhism, vegetarianism and drugs, and gives his players “inspirational books.”
And yet he got away with this racist remark when the NBA passed its dress code rule a few years ago:
I don’t mean to say [this] as a snide remark toward a certain population in our society, but they have a limitation of their attention span, a lot of it probably due to too much rap music going in their ears and coming out their being….The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it’s like gangster, thuggery stuff.
Now, he’s lecturing the Phoenix Suns, who the Lakers face in the Western Conference Finals starting tonight, for taking a stand against the reactionary Arizona immigration law while he at the same time speaks out in defense of it.
He sits smugly on the sidelines and whines incessantly about the officiating in-between games (when they can’t T him up). Yes, he’s a good coach, handsomely rewarded for his 10 championships (at over $10 m a year). But six of those were won with the best player to ever play the game, and three were won with Shaquille O’Neal at the heights of his powers as the most dominant force of the past generation. Last year’s championship was his most impressive by a mile.
Contrast him with the Suns, a team of veterans that plays at warp speed, and is propelled by over-35s like Grant Hill and Steve Nash who play the right way and have paid their dues, but have never won a ring. They disagreed with the immigration law and at the urging of their owner (Robert Sarver) wore jerseys that read “Los Suns” as a protest, risking significant backlash and the loss of gate receipts to take a stand against a reactionary law.
They should have been praised for it, and you’d think that a hippie like Phil Jackson would support them. But he’s a fraud. I hope the Suns win in 6.