Phil Jackson Face

Note: This post was nominated by Basketbawful reader kobefearslebron.

Phil Jackson Face (fil jak'-suhn fas) noun. A facial expression that simultaneously conveys both supreme annoyance and resigned acceptance.

Usage example: Every time Evil Ted sends one of his patented no-look passes sailing out of bounds, I make the Phil Jackson Face.

Word history: The term was semi-coined by Bill Simmons in his article Take a retro look at Game 2 and then more fully explained in Kobe '09: Change we can believe in? I say "semi-coined" because Simmons actually called it The "Should I point out to him that MJ would have absolutely passed there?" Face. Here's the excerpt:

My favorite image of the 2009 Finals was Phil's face after Kobe went one-on-four at the end of Game 2, something I jokingly called The "Should I point out to him that MJ would have absolutely passed there?" Face in my column.

You know what his reaction reminded me of? Being married. Spend enough time with a person and you accept their strengths and weaknesses for what they are. For instance, I am messy. I leave clothes on the floor. I will make coffee in the morning, mistakenly leave a little coffee on the counter and not clean it up. I'm just selfishly absentminded about little things like that. My wife stopped complaining about it around three years ago. When I do those things now, she just makes the Phil Jackson Face. Crap. I'm stuck with him. It's not even worth getting into it. The plusses outweigh the minuses. Let's move forward. Jackson never made that face with his first wife (Jordan); with his second wife (Kobe), he makes it every so often. You could say they're an imperfect match, and if you want to keep the domestic analogy going, they even legally separated in 2004 after a couple of unhappy years. Now they might go on like this indefinitely.
Word trivia: My buddy Mister P is the absolute master of the Phil Jackson Face, so much so that I'd rename it the "Mister P Face" if he was famous (outside of our pickup league, anyway). Even more than Evil Ted (who is a hardwood bastard in his own right), Mister P simply CANNOT stand playing on a team with one or more crummy players. When a lousy shooter forces up a hotly contested 20-footer (hereafter referred to as a "Kobe") instead of passing to a wide open Mister P -- and, sadly, this happens a lot -- he'll turn, give me an extended Phil Jackson Face (usually with a slight head tilt thrown in for good measure), and then trudge slowly down court. (As you probably already know if you play pickup ball, defensive apathy kicks in almost immediately for players who don't receive passes on open looks.)

As alluded to in the usage example, I make this face at least once a night when teamed up with Evil Ted. He has this move in which he drives hard, jumps in the air, and then throws a two-handed behind-the-head pass that occasionally looks brilliant but usually results in a turnover or a teammate scrambling madly to prevent the turnover. Of course, I know how this maneuver became part of ET's repertoire: Larry Bird did it all the time, and it's prominently featured in a passing montage during Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend. Keep in mind that the degree of difficulty of passes featured in a Larry Bird highlight film is pretty high. There probably should be a disclaimer that says: "Do not attempt these moves, mortal fool!"

There's also a time during almost every pickup game when my features get frozen in the Phil Jackson Face...and that's game point. Everybody wants to be the hero, especially if it's a close game. It's almost as if the ball is carrying a virus that's 100 percent contagious, and that virus fills its victim's mind with one all-consuming thought: MUST SHOOT. And, of course, the opposing team usually picks up their defensive intensity, which means that the "good" looks get further and further away from the hoop, until guys start chucking it up from near midcourt. ("BUT I WAS OPEN!") Strategies that worked all game will be carelessly abandoned at game point for one-on-one drives into traffic, leaning half-hooks, turn-around jumpers from impossible distances, and any other bad shot you want to name/describe. But you know it's going to happen, so most of the time the Phil Jackson Face is all you can do.

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Blogger Will said...
I find there is a strong correlation between Passer's Remorse and the Phil Jackson Face.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Actually, this is the Phil Jackson Face. I'm thinking you might want to do a writeup on what Bill Simmons' face must look like right now (here's a guess).

Scoreboard :)

Blogger dunkfu said...
Are these also examples of proper usage?

"Did you see Basketbawful make the Phil Jackson face when the Lakers won the title?"


"I made the Phil Jackson face after reading another Simmons article blasting Kobe."

Blogger Buck Nasty said...

"I make a Phil Jackson face whenever Bill Simmons breaks out his pesonal talk."

I don't care about how your wife somehow thinks that 'the plusses outway the minuses.' With B.S. the only plus is that he loves the Celtics. Also, he hates Kobe. Kobe does suck, so I agree with Bill Simmons on two issues.

Shut up with your Kobe love Wild Yams. Just.....just......wait til next year.

The Clippers will make their return. To the lottery.

/Rant end/

Blogger Browny said...
Pity Bill Simmons is such a douche bag, i kinda enjoyed his writing back in 2004 when he was still fresh.

Blogger chris said...
Browny: This is how fresh Bill's writing is these days...

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I'm curious, what did everyone else think of the latest Bill Simmons article? I'm almost as biased as he is, so I can't really trust my own reaction to it, but to me it came across as incredibly petulant. I almost pictured him in front of Game 5 of The Finals with his eyes closed and his fingers in his ears saying over and over "I'm not listening to you, I'm not listening to you." He still doesn't think Kobe's a good teammate, leader or winner? Still? The guy has more rings than Larry Bird does, for crying out loud. What will it take?

My favorite part of his article was the following:

"But wait, you say. Kobe played so much better in the 2009 Finals than the 2008 Finals. Everyone kept saying it so it must be true! Actually, not really. He averaged 6.7 more points and his assists jumped from 5.0 to 7.4."

Uh, Bill? That's a pretty significant increase. Maybe Simmons isn't aware that Kobe also did something that neither Jordan, Bird or Magic ever did in a Finals: he averaged over 30 ppg and over 7 apg. That's something that only Jerry West had ever done before. And Kobe did it against the league's best defense. Not bad, eh?

For anyone looking for a fantastic rebuttal to Simmons' nonsense, there's a great article up about it over at FB&G.

My homerism knows no bounds :)

Blogger reuben said...
I imagine Game 5, for Bill Simmons, and some choice other went something like this:

Blogger Michael said...
The thing is, that face you have up looks mostly pissed. I'm guess that's a "bad call" face. I think the face you're really referring to is the one PJ made when Kobe came steaming back after getting blocked by Turkoglu at the end of regulation in Game 2. That's the one Simmons is referring to.

@ Yams: I'm a Lakers fan too, so of course I hated Bill's article. And I really wondered at using those stats: I mean, 6 points is a lot, especially given that 2 games went to OT, and one was decided by 4 points. The assists speak for themselves.

And his way with armchair psychology is second to none. Calling the Lakers an "arrangement" after the Celtics winning last year is so unbelievable, I think I made the "any NBA player who just got called for a foul" face. Is he serious? McHale gift-wraps Garnett to Ainge but the Celts aren't an arrangement?

What a douchebag.

By the way, I get annoyed at Kobe for hoisting hotly contested 20 footers at times, but uh, he seems to make quite a few. So I don't think you can call some lousy pick-up player doing the same a Kobe. Maybe an Alston - oh wait, 90% of those weren't contested by anyone.

Anonymous Axel Foley said...
Good that you state your homerism at least. Im pretty sure you think Allen Iverson is a selfish player, and 30 pts 7ast on 20+ shots is pretty much what the not answer does.

Anonymous kazam92 said...
I read simmons article. I couldn't agree with most of the parts but he a made a few valid points. Still, calling the lakers celebration fake when KG did the lamest roar ever a year ago is pushing it

Anonymous Evad KA said...
Kobe isn't Michael Kobe is the best ever the Lakers suck Lebron is better no Kobe is better no Dwight is better who the hell thinks that seriously random statistics quickly gathered off used to make silly point inferences based on opinion without any factual basis.

Take that, f*&kers


Blogger Wild Yams said...
Axel F - So now Kobe is AI? How many championships does AI have? Like I said above, Kobe getting 30+ points and 7+ assists in The Finals is something that only Jerry West had previously done. Comparing him to AI at this point is kinda silly, don't you think? AI putting up the numbers he does while perennially driving his teams into the ground (check out how unbelievably unsuccessful his teams have been throughout his career), is incredibly different than Kobe doing it while winning championships. It's a poor comparison.

Anonymous medrawt said...
(1) I don't care for Simmons' armchair psychology most of the time because I don't care for armchair psychology most of the time.

(2) I think Simmons' point he's made a few times in the past weeks, that he thinks it'll be fascinating to see what the current crop of high school superstars do on retirement, is spot on. And especially Kobe, for all the reasons Simmons indicates: he seems the most monomaniacally driven, is probably the most intelligent and thoughtful by real-world standards, and has the most, uhm, complex public image.

(3) That Forum Blue & Gold article wasn't especially, good, IMO, and the attendant comments were much, much worse. (But it's a Lakers site! Do you go to Celticsblog or whatever team-specific fansite equivalent for objectively defensible and logical commentary that looks reasonable to fans of other teams? Well, maybe Sactown Royalty.)

(4) Referring to KG on the Celtics as an "arrangement" misunderstands the point Simmons was trying to illustrate. His point wasn't that the Lakers team was assembled artificially, but that its chemistry was, like Bill and Hillary Clinton's, faked for mutual benefit. I tend to ignore people who write authoritatively on the emotional life of married couples they're not part of, so I thought this was a stupidly careless thing to write (though it's a common enough cliche to say about the Clintons), so I guess intellectual consistency requires me to say it's equally dumb to write it about the Lakers, when he doesn't really know them either.

(5) I don't get sports fans who get snooty about teams that built through trades, or lopsided trades. A little more in baseball, since you've actually got the legit minor league, but in basketball? Besides [puts on rabid fan hat] the Lakers stole Pau way worse than the Celtics stole Garnett, and Al Jefferson is a future Hall of Famer anyway, so what do you know, and and and, Kobe sucks and is a bad teammate!!!1!one!!

Blogger Basketbawful said...
dunkfu said: "Are these also examples of proper usage? 'Did you see Basketbawful make the Phil Jackson face when the Lakers won the title?'"

Nope. Honestly, I didn't really care all that much ('though naturally I would have prefered a different outcome), just like I didn't get some crazy high when Boston won last year (or when my Colts won the Super Bowl a couple years ago...although they beat my Bears to do it, which might have dimmed my enthusiasm).

Don't get me wrong. I obviously enjoy pro sports, along with the never-ending "Thrill of victory, agony of defeat" rollercoaster that goes along with them. But despite my exaggerated-for-humor reactions here, the ultimate outcome of a game is ultimately meaningless. Sports best use is to bring people together for debate, conversation, etc. Nevertheless, I hope imagining my bummed out look brought you joy.

chris -- Thank you for bringing that site into my life.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Wild Yams -- A few notes about Simmons. You know, he's sort of the ESPN-equivalent of Kobe. People tend to love him or hate him, and the people who hate him use the same kind of specious "Kobe isn't Jordan"-style arguments against him. The primary one of which is that he is a biased homer with an agenda rather than a serious journalist ("And I can't believe ESPN pays him for that crap!"). Well...duh. He always has been. That's what got him a gig at ESPN, and that's what ESPN wants him to continue to do. Imagine what would happen if Bill transformed into Henry Abbott or John Hollinger (or some absurd amalgamation of the two). Who would read him? The whole point of the "Sports Guy" shtick is discussing sports from the standpoint of an emotionally-invested (and, at times, mildly deranged) fan. And he's connected with a lot of readers that way.

Some of his arguments hold up, some don't, and some can never be proven...just like the arguments of pretty much everybody else who writes about basketball, or football, or whatever. Mind you, I'm not a big Simmons fan and some of his articles annoy the living shit out of me, but he is what he is and people try to attack him based on what he is not, or what they imagine he should be, rather than what he is.

Kind of like what happens to Kobe.

Blogger DocZeus said...
Bill Simmons is pretty much spot-on when it comes to the NBA even if he is a blind Celtics homer. And he's right about Kobe.

Watching that series, I kept thinking to myself "Kobe is going to win the NBA Finals MVP by being an active detriment to his team 20% of the time." What a horrid Finals.

And another point, did A.I. in his prime play with ANYBODY as good as Shaq or Gasol? You switch Kobe with A.I. and the Lakers still win those championships. You can't conflate Nuggets/Pistons Allen Iverson with the Philly one. They aren't the same player. Its like comparing Wizards version Jordan with '92 Jordan. They just can't do what they used to do.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- Continued from my last comment.

As for Simmons' article, some of his assertions weren't that much different than what I've said here, i.e., that Kobe didn't really change, but this title changes the perception of Kobe as a player. He's the same guy he was before: Capable of being (and often actually being) the best, but someone who sometimes appears to put his own agenda ahead of anything else. And that Dr. Bryant, Mr. Kobe switch can happen multiple times per game. We've seen it. We've discussed it.

There's a winning double-standard in our culture. When you win, that trumps every argument against you. It's like, if Kobe won a title and was Finals MVP, he MUST be a great leader who makes his team better. That's all the "proof" people need. And I think that's the assumption that Simmons was arguing his own special way. (And if he were fair, he might have pointed out that last year's Finals MVP award didn't really change to Paul Pierce was, either, but it sure changed how people perceive him.)

IMHO, Phil Jackson -- his coaching and his system -- did more to make the various Lakers better than anything Kobe did. This was also the case in Chicago, although revisionist historians would like to believe that Jordan did absolutely everything on his own.

As for the FB&G post, it's sort of masquerading as a fact-driven argument, but it cherry picks stats (for instance, choosing MJ's three worst statistical Finals against what might be Kobe's best) and tries to make one-for-one comparisons even though one of the first arguments he made is that one-for-one comparisons are impossible because of the wildly variable context in which all sports accomplishments are achieved.

It's tough, because the author decrys using opinion-based arguments to discredit Kobe (e.g., "Kobe's teammates don't like him.") but then he immediately uses his own opinion-based arguments to discredit Bill's article ("We get it, Bill. We know you hate Kobe. We know you hate that he now has more titles than Bird. We know it eats away at you that the Celtics are probably a one and done band of mercenaries while the Lakers are built for the long haul. We know those 60s Celtic rings came in a different NBA — pre-expansion, salary cap, globalization, etc. We know that, as a Celtics fan, you have sworn a blood oath to discredit and undermine LA and Kobe at all costs – even if it infects the tone and quality of your writing.")

This is the same person, mind you, who started out by saying: "Above all, I support my conclusions with facts. I don't interpret facial expressions, read minds, reconstruct conversations, or analyze hugs and handshakes. Such is irresponsible journalism, and, even though I am not a journalist, I find it somewhere between silly and offensive." And yet this person who doesn't read minds knows -- not thinks, mind you, he KNOWS -- what is eating away at Bill Simmons. That's some serious omniscience.

Reed claims to be a biased homer who is "reasonable and mostly capable of objectivity." I bet Bill Simmons would tell you the same thing. But it sure seems to me they both did some selective picking and choosing of facts, figures and circumstances. Both made opinion-based arguments against their adversaries, too.

Tomato, to-mah-to.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Well, really none of us are unbiased, and that's especially true when it comes to Kobe. I would find it highly unlikely you could find anyone with a truly objective point of view about the man. I think many people are aware of their biases (like yourself, Mr. Bawful, and Simmons), but some (you) recognize how that can hinder your writing while others (Simmons) do not. Judging by what you had to say, I probably like Simmons' writing more than you do, and actually am quite fond of what he writes. I will say that I think only part of his appeal (and a small part at that) is his homerism though, and think instead most people like his more honest insights into a sport itself, rather than into certain players or teams. That and his pop culture references.

I think that Kobe is neither as good, nor as bad, as he is almost always portrayed to be, and that applies to his play on the court and his "leadership qualities" as well. There have been a fair amount of minor players who have been with the Lakers in the last decade who flourished there while disappearing elsewhere, but you may be right in that ultimately Phil and his triangle (or zen philosophy or whatever) should deserve credit for that. The truth is that none of us really knows who deserves credit for what.

Take Trevor Ariza's outside shooting for example. In a recent newspaper article Ariza said a year ago Kobe gave him one of his secret shooting regimens as a workout he could perform, which Ariza said he treated "like the Bible". So now there is a question of how much credit Kobe should get for Ariza's improved shooting. Or there's a question about whether Phil and his staff should get credit for trusting Ariza and sticking with him shooting from outside all year. Or is it ultimately just Ariza who deserves credit for doing the work to improve as a shooter? Who can say? All of the above?

Hell if I know.

I do know this: I find it doubtful that Kobe is the great impediment to teammate and team growth/success that he's often made out to be considering the success of the players he's been teamed with. Smush Parker, for example, has said repeatedly that he hated playing with Kobe, and that all of LA's problems began and ended with Kobe, and yet his only real NBA relevance came while playing alongside Kobe. I don't know what to make of that. I don't know what to make of the whole thing really.

Unfortunately Kobe really is perceived almost like a religious or political figure, in that he can't be discussed objectively, seemingly by anyone. Maybe we'll never know how good or awful he really is.

Anonymous tabman said...
@wild yams: you need to check your homerism stats. mj averaged 31 points and 11 assists in the '91 finals. so it's not just kobe and west that have averaged your arbitrarily chosen 30 and 7.

Blogger chris said...
Bawful: No problem, Dan B. once again hooked me up (as he did with the Duhleavy twitter).

BTW, as choke-prone as the masters of illusion were in the Finals, you gotta hand it to Phil and Kobe for taking what appears to be the weakest team this side of the 1975 Warriors all the way to the trophy.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
I don't make that pass NEARLY as much as I used to, but I understand that bawful needs examples to make his point, so FINE.

Oh, and nobody, including Mr. P, hates being on a crappy team more than me - that situation is practically how Evil Ted came to be!

Blogger Wild Yams said...
tabman - Sorry, my bad. I didn't arbitrarily choose those stats though, I got that info from JA Adande's piece in Monday's Daily Dime:

even though his 32.4 points and 7.4 assists made this the best combination of those categories since Jerry West averaged 37.9 points and 7.4 assists in the 1969 Finals

That'll learn me to trust ESPN :)

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Evil Ted said: "Oh, and nobody, including Mr. P, hates being on a crappy team more than me - that situation is practically how Evil Ted came to be!"

You got me there. I don't know what I was thinking. Mister P just makes the PJF more than you...otherwise, your hatred does indeed surpass his.

Anonymous tabman said...
wild yams - no problem. i see where you got that from. the thing is, those kinda stats are usually "arbitrarily" chosen by someone, but arbitrarily is actually bad word choice on my part. it's more like they are strategically chosen to weed people out and come up with some obscure stat line that only one or two people have had. for instance, you could say that kobe and west are the only two to ever average 32+ and 7+ in a finals, and you would have successfully weeded out jordan's 31 and 11 in '91. stat games.

Anonymous kobefearslebron said...
Hey Basketbawful,

Thanks for the credit! Here are some videos of the Phil Jackson face.

Lamar Odom Dribbles Inbounds! - 0:09

Phil Gives a Poker Face - 0:03

Thanks man! =)

Blogger Brian Tung said...
With some trepidation, I'm going to make the same comment I did over at FB&G (and understand I say this as an unabashed Kobe fan, though one who is often frustrated with his focus on the court):

Reed's post is an impressive effort. It's a testament to the extent to which Kobe fans have his back.

But I can't totally get behind it. And the reason is, it's practically an in-joke with Simmons and other writers how ultra-sensitive Lakers Fan is, and I hate to see anyone play right into that stereotype. And the post isn't totally convincing, even to me. And if you can't convince me, as a Kobe fan, who else are you going to convince that isn't already singing along in the choir?

I already think it's sort of nutty to compare superstars with statistics (I've made a post on my own blog about this: ) and it's doubly nutty to try to do it with superstars across different eras. No doubt Kobe has brought a lot of this upon himself, with his (sub?)conscious mimicry of Jordan's mannerisms and single-minded need to master all aspects of the game, but that doesn't mean that everyone needs to fall into that trap, too.

And I think it's fair to point out that Jordan never had to deal with questions about being "the next Kobe." That's no knock on Jordan, just an observation that he got to make his own way, and through his Herculean efforts managed to cast a preposterously long shadow on all future perimeter players.

While I'm at it, I also have my thoughts on Kobe:

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