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“The simulator crew” — Phil Jackson on the San Antonio Spurs title that should have an asterisk

Jackson's attitude and comments towards the Spurs were anything but zen.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich are two of the greatest coaches in NBA history. Behind their great battles on the hardcourt, the two haven’t been exactly cordial off the court — particularly the Zen Master. Over the years, he has hurled rough insults at Popovich, even declaring that one of the San Antonio Spurs’ titles should have an asterisk.

Asterisk championship

For the Los Angeles Lakers’ final regular season game of the 1999-2000 season, they were scheduled to meet the defending champion Spurs. The Lakers were about to finish the season as the best team in the West, back by the power duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Though it was a meaningless regular season game, Jackson knew they were going up against the champs. So he wanted to get the mental edge by dissing Popovich and his team. A report by the Los Angeles Times quoted Jackson.

The 1999-2000 regular season comprised just 50 games due to a lockout. From the looks of it, the Zen Master was way ahead of his time with regard to placing asterisks beside NBA championships.

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From another perspective, perhaps Jackson was still bitter that the Chicago Bulls broke up the season before the Spurs won the title. There was ample belief that they would have completed the four-peat if Jordan had played one more season.

The Simulator Crew

This was not the only time Jackson doubted the Spurs’ credibility. In the 2001 Western Conference Finals, the Spurs and the Lakers met again. Though the Lakers were the defending champs then, the Spurs had the best record in the NBA. They were regarded as one of the few teams who could topple the Kobe-Shaq duo.

But alas, Jackson booted them out in just four games. The Zen Master wanted to rub salt into their wounds by calling the Spurs coaching staff “the simulator crew.” It’s Jackson’s insult for Popovich’s unconventional road to the NBA.

Whereas most coaches have graced the NBA hardcourt as players, Popovich has no experience playing ball at the highest level. He got his start as an assistant coach in the Air Force Academy, then as head coach of Pomona-Pitzer, a Division III NCAA team.

As with all forms of trash talking, they shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s part of the game, as they all say. Jackson doesn’t harbor ill feelings toward Popovich. In fact, he admires the Spurs coach for putting in the work.

He paid his dues as far as knowing the NBA and what had to be done in the NBA. I think he’s had a big impact on this team with his defensive philosophy,” Jackson said, per The Spokesman Review.

So there you have it. Jackson might have hurled insults at Popovich over the years, but at the end of the day, he knows that the Spurs coach is right beside him as one of the best to command from the sidelines. 

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