No one understood my “awakened” NBA joke
Former Knicks player and executive Phil Jackson has now tried to clarify his comments about the NBA becoming too “political,” claiming it was a joke.
While appearing on the “Stacey King’s Gimme the Hot Sauce” podcast, Jackson was asked if he wanted to comment on the controversial comments, and chuckled before answering.
“I don’t think people understood the humor of the names on the backs of the players who were in the bubble, because when you apply them to defending and challenging and going to the ring, and you use those monikers that are on the names, it had a funny aspect to it,” Jackson said.
“That’s exactly what I told the kids. Visually, this is a bit humorous. I had nothing against BLM or the cause behind it. The humorous nature of being fully awakened by the NBA was really like, it’s kind of hard to watch.
Jackson made his first comments on an April 5 episode of “Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin,” saying he hasn’t followed the NBA — or watched games — since 2020, when the league played in its COVID-19 bubble in Orlando and allowed athletes to replace their jersey names with social justice messages.
“They went into the lockout year and they did something kind of wanky, they did a bubble in Orlando, and all the teams that could qualify went there and stayed there,” Jackson said on the Rubin podcast. “And they had things on their backs like ‘Justice.’ They made something funny like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked it down.’ … My grandchildren thought it was quite funny to come up with those names, I couldn’t watch that.”
Jackson was then asked a follow-up about what he didn’t like about that, saying the league was “trying to cater to an audience or trying to get a certain audience into the game, and they didn’t know that.” it turned other people off.”
“People wanted to see sports as non-political.”
That immediately sparked a wave of backlash against Jackson, including from Jalen Rose — a Post columnist, host of the “Renaissance Man” podcast, and an NBA analyst for ESPN — who shot Jackson in a Twitter video and said that “you can’t make this upstairs.”
“The same Phil Jackson who won championships with some of the greatest black athletes in the history of the game — Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant. Made millions on their backs and from their sweating ability.
“You sit there watching games with your grandchildren and you all think it’s funny when justice passes the ball to equal opportunity?” Rose continued. “If someone shows you who you are, believe them, so stop looking – forever.”
Jackson won 11 NBA championships as head coach and later served as president of the Knicks before the team fired him in 2017.