LeBron James Rips Phil Jackson for Racially Coded Rhetoric

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(Photo: Getty Images)

LeBron James and his inner circle drew criticism from New York Knicks president Phil Jackson for the way the superstar left the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Jackson's characterization of James and his associates as selfish isn't what drew LeBron's ire—it's the use of the word "posse" to describe the people James surrounds himself with.

“It had to hurt when [the Heat] lost LeBron. That was definitely a slap in the face. But there were a lot of little things that came out of that," Jackson said in an interview with ESPN. "When LeBron was playing with the Heat, they went to Cleveland, and he wanted to spend the night. They don’t do overnights. Teams just don’t. So now [coach Erik] Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, ‘What do I do in this situation?’ And Pat, who has iron-fist rules, answers, ‘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.

“I always thought Pat had this really nice vibe with his guys. But something happened there where it broke down. I do know LeBron likes special treatment. He needs things his way.”

Maverick Carter, who co-founded marketing agency LRMR with James, was the first from LeBron's camp to respond.

"I don't care that he talks about LeBron," Carter told ESPN. "He could say he's not that good or the greatest in the world as a basketball player. I wouldn't care. It's the word 'posse' and the characterization I take offense to. If he would have said LeBron and his agent, LeBron and his business partners or LeBron and his friends, that's one thing. Yet because you're young and black, he can use that word. We're grown men."

During Cavs practice on Tuesday, James joined in on Carter's criticism of Jackson.

“To use that label, and 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. “It’s not what I stand for, it’s not what my family stands for. I believe the only reason he used that word is because he sees young African-Americans trying to make a difference.”

He went on to openly wonder what type of language the Knicks president uses when out of the public eye.

“It’s not surprising,” LeBron said. “If [Jackson] says it out to the media, you can only imagine what he says when the camera is not on him or the headset or whatever you guys record on. Just got a lot more work to do.”

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony agrees with James.