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When Mike D'Antoni referenced a porn star to power the Suns' 3-1 comeback against the Lakers

Down 3-1 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D'Antoni came up with the ultimate method to motivate his players.
Mike D'Antoni

Mike D'Antoni

A big chunk of a coach’s job is to find the right words to motivate his players. However, there are times when plain and simple words are never enough, especially when you’re down 3-1 in a playoff series against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni knew this for a fact. So he tried his best to pull out the right words to capture his team’s attention. And he ended up with Jenna Jameson.

Looking for a way to relate

The book “Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns” by Jack McCallum revealed what the Suns and D’Antoni’s headspace were during their 2006 first-round playoff series against the Lakers. On top of figuring out a way to stop the surging Lakers tactically, D’Antoni was looking for a way to relate to his players.

Earlier in the day, at the coaches meeting, D’Antoni had asked suddenly. ‘What’s that porno actress’s name? Del Rio? What’s her first name?’ It was a strange question coming from a man who had shown no previous interest in the bone-and-moan industry. Plus, he named an actress who was popular more than a decade ago,” McCallum wrote.

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Alvin Gentry, then an assistant for the Suns, came to D’Antoni’s aid. He mentioned Jenna Jameson, a porn actress who rose to fame in the early 2000s. Gentry was confident the players were familiar with her stuff.

“‘You gotta do better than that,’” says Gentry. “‘Go with Jenna Jameson. More recognizable. Local connection. And I guaran-damn-tee you most of our guys have seen her work.’”

Did it work?

D’Antoni took Gentry’s advice and ran with it, albeit awkwardly. Steve Nash and crew were not expecting their coach to blurt out Jameson’s name or any other porno actress for that matter.

“‘We all know we’re getting screwed more than Jenna Jameson…’” — there is a titter in the gym, possibly because D’Antoni sounds so uncomfortable making the reference, possibly for other reasons — ‘Anyway… I forgot what I was going to say… but, we’re gonna have to come back here, play as hard as hell, beat their ass, and then watch the pressure go back on them. This ain’t even close to being over.’

The anecdote makes it seem that D’Antoni wasn’t able to execute his soliloquy perfectly. Even he himself was uncomfortable in blurting out a porn actress’ name in the middle of a playoff series. Whatever the case may be, it definitely caught his players’ attention. And the Suns were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. 

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