Knicks president Phil Jackson always has something controversial to say, so it should come as no surprise when two of the top sports headlines of the early days of the 2014 NBA season concerned what Phil Jackson said about New York superfan Spike Lee — “doesn’t know anything about basketball” — and what Phil Jackson said about former boss and future brother-in-law Jim Buss — “vaulted into position through his inheritance.”
The latest pair of verbal barbs from Jackson got us thinking about some of the more memorable quips the Zen Master of sarcasm has thrown out over the years. While this is by no means an exhaustive list — and feel free to check out Jackson’s Twitter account for a real-time clinic on how to disseminate pointed observations — we managed to trim our collection down to 10 of the most unforgettable insults Jackson ever said or wrote. [editor’s note: this list does not include this season’s Knicks squad, who are in last place in the East this season]
On Ron Artest’s footwear:
When Lakers forward (and not yet known as Metta World Peace) Ron Artest was battling foot pain during the 2009-2010 season, he blamed plantar fasciitis. His coach, meanwhile, blamed Artest’s shoes. Jackson referred to his forward’s made-in-China Peak sneakers as “concrete boots,” telling reporters that, “Those shoes look like they’re made for the Hudson River.”
On Kobe Bryant:
Jackson’s 2004 book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, had plenty to say about Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, and much of it was less than flattering. Jackson wrote that he told Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that, “I won’t coach this team next year if he is still here. He won’t listen to anyone. I’ve had it with this kid.” (Of course, Jackson and Bryant eventually reunited later in their careers and won two more titles with the purple and gold.)
On Madison Square Garden:
When Jackson coached his final game at Madison Square Garden in 2011, the former Knicks player and future Knicks boss was asked what he was thinking as he rode the elevator. His response: “It doesn’t smell like elephants.” Jackson elaborated that he “was actually thinking about the … number of playoff games that the Bulls and Knicks had, and that is the time when the elephant smell is in the building. And it’s always a pleasure.” (We’re hoping Jackson was merely talking about the traveling circus that visited MSG in the spring.)
Some of Jackson’s most cruel remarks have been saved for his least favorite NBA cities. Who can forget what Jackson had to say about Memphis back in 2005? Namely, “It’s like Dresden after the war.” Unsurprisingly, that World War II mention didn’t go over exceedingly well.
On New Orleans:
No one has ever accused Jackson of being politically correct. When the Lakers played the Hurricane Katrina-displaced Hornets in Oklahoma City in 2006, Jackson’s analysis of the venue change lacked any sort of tact or decency. “Well, it smells better in Oklahoma,” Jackson said. “I have to say I miss that mildew smell from New Orleans that permeates the air.” If that wasn’t enough, Jackson also had a few things to say about the Crescent City’s mud and termites, among other topics.
On Shaquille O’Neal
Last year, Jackson irritated one of the best players he ever coached when he offered some insights on Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers career. The big man, who helped Jackson win three of his record 11 rings, “didn’t work at it” and had “a clown role he had to play,” according to the veteran coach. This came only a few months after Jackson picked on Shaq for buying a piece of a Sacramento franchise they both had mocked over the years. “Good luck with your kissin’ cousin-fun da mentals,” Jackson tweeted to O’Neal in September 2013.
The Florida home of Mickey Mouse was not exempt from Jackson’s sharp-witted tongue. In 2000, the Lakers coach prefaced a visit to Orlando by calling that town a “plastic city.” Of course, then-Magic coach Doc Rivers shot back, saying that, “The difference between us and L.A. is people live in L.A. because they have to work there. People live here by choice.”
On Vladimir Radmanovi?:
Jackson was known to try pretty much anything to motivate a player, whether it be calling them out in the media or handing them a book to read on a long trip. But even by Jackson’s standards, his 2006 assessment of Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovi? was rather otherworldly. “He’s a space cadet,” Jackson said of Radmanovi?. “He could be on Mars.”
One of Jackson’s favorite targets through the years has been Sacramento, especially when the Lakers and Kings were dueling for Western Conference supremacy in the early 2000s. Notable Jacksonian descriptions of the fans in California’s capital city included “semi-civilized” and “redneck in some form or fashion.” Jackson also called Sacramento a “cow town,” and has been one of the city’s least favorite people ever since.
On San Antonio:
Jackson’s take on the Spurs’ home city was short, sweet, and to the point: He called San Antonio “a tourist trap.” That’s just a nice and unique way to say “competing dynasty,” right? Right?