By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

I used to love H.I.M.

He used to be my man 50 grand. The Revolverlutionary. The Phrenologist.

I used to hold him down to no end.

Triangle offense? Ride or die.

Phil Jackson was the one dude, despite all his flaws, who I publicly protected and defended. Said nothing when others would criticize him or find fault with him. "Damn you, Red Auerbach!!!"

I had to do that for him. I shared his last name.

Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson escaped criticism for his comments about hip-hop "prison garb and thuggery."

But over the years something's changed. Something's flipped. The openness, the acceptability of individualness, the personal liberalness -- all disappeared. It seemed that the minute Bill Clinton left office, Phil also left the building. Turned to the dark side, turned righteous, turned into Billy Graham, became … conservative.

Which is cool, because as long as he kept winning basketball games, as long as he kept the Lakers relevant, everything was golden, all good, irie.

Do or die, I had his back.

* * * * *

In October 1999, these words came out of his mouth:

"I don't mean to say [that] as a snide remark toward a certain population in our society, but they have a limitation of their attention span, a lot of it probably due to too much rap music going in their ears and coming out their being."

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OK. Let that one slide. Chalk it up as generational hate. Cultural Alzheimer's.

Then…

In October 2005, these words came out of his mouth:

"I think it's important that the players take their end of it, get out of the prison garb and the thuggery aspect of basketball that has come along with hip-hop music in the last seven or eight years."

OK … the camel's thoracic and lumbar vertebrae just went into trauma. Forget a broken back, this is spondylitis. A disease.

Now, I'm not calling Phil Jackson an Al Campanis, a Marge Schott or a Jimmy the Greek, but I will say for those comments he needs to meet the same fate.

At what point did Phil Jackson feel that it was his place to take derogatory and demoralizing shots at a culture and walk around as if we were too "illiterate" to understand the subliminal, covert messages behind his comments and beliefs?

Not necessarily being fired -- something beyond that. At this point he should be placed in the same sports pantheon of bigots and frauds that have come along in this post-Adolf Hitler/Jesse Owens generation of athletics.

"Limitation of their attention span … due to too much rap music"? "Prison garb and thuggery … that has come along with hip-hop music"?

Forget calling the kettle black, let's just call the hypocrite white.

Or should I say, hippie?

One who was a member of an anti-American culture that made marijuana mainstream, one that dressed in Woodstock and Vietnam garb.

But before we go there, let's deal with the greater issue: the cultural and racial ignorance of Phil Jackson.

The first comment was made upon his first comeback. It came in a conversation with the media during training camp about the Lakers learning the intricacies of the triangle offense.

The second comment was made upon his second comeback. It came in a conversation with the media during training camp about his feelings toward the implementation of the NBA's new dress-code policy.

Notice a pattern? Notice a recrudescence?

At what point does he feel it necessary to "blame" the ability to learn a complicated offense on music that some of his players might be listening to? At what point does he feel justified to "hold responsible" clothing that some of his players may wear on artists who create music in the videos some of his players might be watching?

At what point did Phil Jackson feel that it was his place to take derogatory and demoralizing shots at a culture and walk around as if we were too "illiterate" to understand the subliminal, covert messages behind his comments and beliefs?

At what point did he feel nothing would be said?

In the words of SNCC: I AM A MAN.

In the words of KRS-One: I AM HIP-HOP.

And just like any subculture inside of America -- rock 'n' roll, grunge, heavy metal, country, bluegrass, electronica, reggae, merengue, punk, funk, rave, classical -- that has been given birth through music, there are both good and bad sides. All open not only to judgment, but interpretation.

But when a Hall of Fame-bound, messiah-like respected coach who is a child of a subculture of imperfection feels that he needs to go out of his way to defame and slander another culture and its music while making an irrelevant point about music and basketball, someone has to Kanye West: Stand up!

To him. To his legacy.

Someone has to remind him of his past, remind him who we really are.

Someone has to expose him for what he really is: a b---- in sheep's clothing.

* * * * *

Last I looked, I had on an oversized pair of Sean John jeans, an L-R-G white tee with a black L-R-G hoodie resting on my shoulders. AF1 LE's that cost $300 on my feets. Every time I get dressed for work, this is what I wear. And every day I sit down to work I see that master's degree with my name on it hanging on my office wall.

Last I looked, Lord Finesse's "The Awakening," Scarface's "The Fix," TI's "Urban Legend," Lil' Kim's "Naked Truth," Ghostface Killah's "Supreme Clientele," and Eric B. and Rakim's "Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em," were the six CDs in the chamber. Last I looked, I could retain information, hadn't missed a deadline, haven't been fired from a job, haven't been unemployed or unemployable, haven't been mistaken for a thug or bank robber, haven't been accused of a crime, haven't sold out or sold my soul, and last week was able to get a point about self-esteem across to an auditorium full of kids at a college that made them cry.

I recited Nas and Tupac lyrics. My jeans were hanging off my ass .

They asked me to come back.

Would you rather us be like Karl Rove or Tom DeLay or Lewis Libby, Phil? Would you rather your Lakers players and the rest of the ballers in the NBA present themselves more like Enron's Kenneth Lay or Jeff Skilling? Arthur Andersen's Joe Berardino? Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski? WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers?

Last I looked, someone from hip-hop's culture, Kanye West, made the cover of Time and was taking political stands through conscious statements about President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Last I looked, someone from hip-hop's culture, Jay-Z, had a feature story in Fortune about his success as a CEO and was GQ's Man of The Year in Britain. Last I looked, Vanity Fair did an issue portfolio on members of our culture -- Outkast, Missy, Common, Nas, Nelly, Eve, Ice Cube, The Beastie's, Kool Herc, etc. -- 38 pages, two pairs of jeans (one Dolce and Gabbana, the other Rocawear), three diamond necklaces, zero do-rags, Timberlands or guns.

Last I looked, two cats from hip-hop's culture, Russell Simmons and Sean Combs, created national voter-registration drives that eclipsed anything the Democratic Party has been able to do in the last 10 years. Last I looked, individuals from our culture were headlining movies and being nominated for Academy Awards (Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube), having No.1 shows on television (Chris Rock), having art exhibits in New York, Los Angeles and London (Jean-Michel Basquiat), having plays on Broadway (Mos Def, Simmons), having best-selling books (Kevin Liles) and iPod commercials (Eminem).

The last time I looked, we -- being in and of the hip-hop culture -- were responsible for generating $1.5 billion annually for corporate companies, making what we do and who we are one of the top corporate financial entities in America. Last I looked, Cingular Wireless (which just posted a 56 percent third-quarter profit increase) and Target and Nike and Viacom and Disney were trying to "incorporate" us into their marketing and brand-building plans. Last I looked, Suze Orman was a keynote speaker at the Hip-Hop Summit of Financial Empowerment. But yet, we're thugs who dress like prisoners who make music that diminishes our ability to learn?

Yes, some of us are products of that; but that doesn't define us. And neither will you, Phil Jackson.

Hip-hop, just like all other musical heritages, is not monolithic in process, behavior or mentality. Never has been, never will. But we are reactionary.

So like Erick Sermon, I react.

Would you rather us be like Karl Rove or Tom DeLay or Lewis Libby, Phil? Would you rather your Lakers players and the rest of the ballers in the NBA present themselves more like Enron's Kenneth Lay or Jeff Skilling? Arthur Andersen's Joe Berardino? Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski? WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers?

Maybe you'd rather them dress like Catholic priests.

Define prison garb, yo.

Or maybe in your next comment about "us" will you single out Lil' Kim, use her as an example of the jail mentality that comes with hip-hop's influence, but conveniently fail to mention Martha Stewart?

Or maybe you'll remember to mention that most of the "thuggery" clothes we buy (especially those worn by NBA players) come from Neiman's, Macy's and Saks, where entire floors are devoted to our fashion and designers. Does that irritate you, Phil? Make you wish that these upscale department chains wouldn't carry such urban outfits? If so, why not scream them out too?

Clothing not cool for your players to rock, but OK for Fortune 500 stores to sell?

Now, I'd be ignorant to sit up here and write that elements of a gangsta's culture or a thug's way of life hasn't seeped into how we live, but so has the Mob's -- but I didn't hear you blast "The Sopranos" or Mario Puzo the way you did us.

Is this personal? No. Did I take it that way? Yes.

Because if black America is going to get on Bill Cosby for the blanket statements he made about a "certain segment" of our society, then hip-hop culture cannot let Phil Jackson get away untouched.

Just because we understand what you are saying Phil, as Chris Bridges as it is, it doesn't give you the right to say it.

Especially when your comments are no longer an isolated incident.

On this opening day of the 2005-06 NBA season, Phil Jackson will represent the hypocrisy of manhood in America. A man who has a brilliant mind for basketball and winning but no compassion or comprehension for how to deal with people outside of his imaginary picket-fence circle.

* * * * *

What type of music does a married man listen to when he is publicly involved with another woman?

Is Yanni music for adulterers?

What type of clothes does a man wear when he tricks out on one of his players? Writes a dehumanizing book about his team and comes back like everything is cool? What type of clothes make that man?

What type of clothes and music does a man wear and listen to as he watches a player redirect his life out of loyalty to him, only to backstab that player one year later by returning to the crime scene for $30 million?

What type of music and clothes does a man listen to and wear after he has given one of his African-American superstars one of these two books to read: "Black Like Me" or "The White Man's Shuffle."

What type of "being" comes from an original American counterculture, openly indulges in illegal drugs and activities, is a card-carrying member of the anti-establishment, then not only flips and embraces Buddhism, Native American culture and Zen philosophy, but also flips and finds fault in a similar culture 30 years removed from the one he was once part of?

"For Phil Jackson to come out and say what he said demonstrates the level of contempt he has for certain types of players in the league," says Dr. Todd Boyd of the University of Southern California's Department of Critical Studies and author of "The New HNIC: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop." "He is very hesitant to embrace certain black ballplayers with certain backgrounds. And for him to make those comments about hip-hop culture when he has no true knowledge of the culture whatsoever basically exposes him for what he seems to represent."

And that is no longer a coaching god with nine rings who has come back to save one of the most loved and respected franchises in professional sports.

On this opening day of the 2005-06 NBA season, Phil Jackson will represent the hypocrisy of manhood in America. A man who has a brilliant mind for basketball and winning but no compassion or comprehension for how to deal with people outside of his imaginary picket-fence circle. A man who in the last six years has shown his true color about how he views a certain fragment of America's society that happens to be the color he's not.

A man who has lost more than love; he's lost all my respect.

For many, the comments he made amount to nothing. Many of you will read this and feel that I went overboard on Phil; that he's an icon and I can't say what I said about him; that he's above me and I'm beneath him in the culture of basketball; that I took his words the wrong way.

To me, there's no other way to take them.

There are no lines to read between, the comments are scripture.

Spit all feels the same when it runs down your face.

Phil Jackson spit on an entire culture -- twice -- and got away with it. Never got called on it, never got called out. He just went on his upper-ruling class way and watched the world worship the "sacred" ground he walked on.

I know how he feels about the art we create and how we present ourselves; I know he feels we are less intelligent because of the music we listen to and give birth to; that we are predestined to prison or thug life because of the way we dress.

I know now how he feels about people like me ... and how he feels about the culture 80 percent of the league he coaches in comes from.

He just doesn't know how I feel about him.

Now he does.

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here. Or, join him in chat.



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