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NY Post
New York Post
22 Apr 2023

NextImg:Phil Jackson says he doesn’t watch NBA now because it’s too political

Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson no longer watches the NBA — because it’s become too “political,” he recently admitted.

During an appearance on the Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin podcast, the 77-year-old Zen Master claimed he hasn’t followed the NBA since early in the pandemic in 2020 — when postseason games were played in the “bubble” in Orlando, and players were allowed to wear woke messages on the back of their jerseys such as “Justice,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“I am not enjoying the game,” said Jackson, who won 11 titles coaching the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

“There’s a whole generation that doesn’t like the game.”

“They did something that was kind of wanky, they did a bubble down in Orlando, and all the teams that could qualify went down there and stayed down there,” he added during his April 5 appearance on the podcast.

“And they had things on their back like, ‘Justice.’ They made a funny thing like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down.’ … My grandkids thought that was pretty funny to play up those names. …I couldn’t watch that.”

Rubin hosted the NBA Hall of Famer on his podcast.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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“The Lakers won that year,” he recalled.

“They even had slogans on the floor and the baseline. It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game, and they didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political.

“Politics stays out of the game; it doesn’t need to be there.”

During the bubble, the NBA had “Black Lives Matters” emblazoned on its courts, allowed players to kneel during the national anthem and chose a social justice message to wear on their nameplate.

At the time, the world was not only dealing with a pandemic but racial tensions spurred by several high-profile police killings, including the murder of George Floyd.

Critics called foul on Jackson Saturday after news of his remarks went viral.

“Phil Jackson says he doesn’t watch the NBA anymore because it should be non-political and not support slogans like ‘Black Lives Matter,” tweeted Bishop Talbert Swan, a Massachusetts-based NAACP honcho and religious leader.

“The league is 80% Black. He didn’t mind Jordan, @ScottiePippen, @kobebryant, @SHAQ, and mostly Black players giving him 11 championships.”

For Knicks fans, Jackson’s love for the NBA didn’t end soon enough.

A former Knick himself whose gritty play helped carry the team to its last championship in 1974, Jackson came out of a brief retirement in 2014 to return to the Knicks — not as a coach, but as president of basketball operations.

His tenure was marred by a series of dubious trades, horrific on-court team performance, poor draft selections as well as pushing out fan favorites Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

He mutually parted ways with the club in June 2017 — but not before delivering one final blow to Knick fans weeks earlier by taking little-known Frenchman Frank Ntilikina over Donavan Mitchell in the NBA Draft.