Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is considered one of the greatest basketball minds in history. So as the years went on without him winning a championship, there was this belief that only another great basketball mind could save him: legendary head coach Phil Jackson.
This belief never went away even after James won back-to-back titles with the Miami Heat. The hype was always around James as critics firmly believed he could win a string of Larry O’Brien trophies. Jackson, who wins NBA championships in bunches, is simply the ultimate coach for James. As we all know, the partnership between the two basketball savants never came to fruition. That may be the biggest “what-if” in NBA history. Metta Sandiford-Artest, who won his only title with Jackson at the mantle, shared his thoughts on the matter.
“I know him [Phil Jackson] and LeBron had issues but you know what’s so crazy? When him and LeBron had those little issues it was kind of unfortunate. But for me personally, I loved the guy. He opened up my mind into playing basketball at a calm level,” Artest said via Brandon Robinson.
Artest was referring to Jackson’s comments about James’ crew. In a November 2016 interview, Jackson shared his thoughts on an incident when the Heat returned to James’ hometown during the regular season.
“When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland and he wanted to spend the night. They don’t do overnights. Teams just don’t. So now (coach Erik) Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, ‘What do I do in this situation?’ And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, ‘You are on the plane, you are with this team.’ You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland,” Jackson said, per ESPN.
James responded to these comments not once but several times over the next few months. For James, “posse” is not the proper word to describe him and his associates and what they’ve done to change the landscape of the sports/entertainment industry.
When the Knicks passed on Dennis Smith Jr. in the 2017 NBA Draft, James made it known that the team made a mistake. He took this up a notch by clarifying that his comment was indeed a shot at Jackson, the team’s president during that time. When his good friend Carmelo Anthony was falling out with the team, James took another jab at Jackson.
“Phil was just a small piece [of the Knicks’ recent struggles],” James said. “Well, he was a big piece of it, actually. I don’t have no problem with the Knicks organization. I wasn’t here, so I don’t know the insights and everything. … Y’all know how they handled the Carmelo [Anthony] situation, but I’m not a fan of Phil Jackson, though. I think you guys already know that. Let’s not … that’s the past, though. He’s not even here anymore,” James said, per ESPN.
Perhaps Artest was right on the money when he used the term “unfortunate” to describe the history of LeBron James and Phil Jackson. After all, James is known to take control when he doesn’t trust his coach. He did it with David Blatt. He almost did it with Erik Spoelstra. He probably wouldn’t have booted out Phil Jackson, perhaps because they’d actually find a way to coexist, which could have led to tremendous success winning multiple NBA championships. I guess we’ll never really know anymore.