LOS ANGELES — New York Knicks president Phil Jackson described LeBron James as a high-maintenance player who likes to get preferential treatment on road trips, the US media reported on Tuesday.
“LeBron James likes special treatment. He needs things his way,” Jackson said in an interview this week with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen.
Jackson, 71, told a story of how James left the Miami Heat in the summer of 2014 to join his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and how disappointing it was for Heat president Pat Riley to lose his superstar.
“It hurt they lost LeBron,” Jackson said. “That had to be a slap in the face.”
Jackson said during James’ stay in Miami, he requested the team stay over in Cleveland during a road trip.
He said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wasn’t sure how to handle the situation so he contacted Riley, who told him no single player is bigger than the team.
“Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answered, ‘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.
James said Tuesday he was upset over Jackson’s comments, especially the use of the word “posse” to characterise his business associates which he took as a racial jab.
“If you go and read the definition of what the word ‘posse’ is, it’s not what I’ve built over my career,” James said.
“We’re not going to let Phil Jackson’s comments stop us from doing what we need to do. It just gives us extra motivation. But it’s still sad.”
James said he now has a lack of respect for Jackson, who has won 11 NBA championships.
The Cavaliers play the Knicks at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec 7. — AFP