NBA: Jackson says 'high-maintenance' James' exit from Miami was a slap in the face

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said that LeBron James "likes special treatment".
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said that LeBron James "likes special treatment".PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - 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," he said in an interview this week with ESPN's Jackie MacMullen.

The 71-year-old 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 had to hurt they lost LeBron," Jackson said. "That had to be a slap in the face."

Jackson said that during James' stay in Miami, he requested the team stay over in Cleveland during a road trip.

He said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was not sure how to handle the situation so he contacted Riley, who told him that no single player is bigger than the team.

"Spoelstra has to text Riley and say, 'What do I do in this situation'?" Jackson said.

"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."

James said on 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.

"We see the success that we have, but then there is always someone that let's you know still how far we still have to go as African-Americans," he said.

"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.

"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.

"I had nothing but respect for him as a coach for what he was able to do. Obviously he was at the helm of (the team featuring) my favourite player of all-time Michael Jordan, and also being there growing up and watching him with the Lakers, but I got nothing for him," James said of Jackson.

The Knicks' star player Carmelo Anthony said he understands why James would be upset at Jackson's use of the word "posse".

"I would never want to hear that word about me and my - I don't want to say crew - but people that I consider family or people that I come up (with), been through thick and thin with," he said on Tuesday.

"I'd want to be called a tight-knit group or family. That's what I consider those close people to me."

The Cavaliers play the Knicks at New York's Madison Square Garden on Dec 7.