Posted April 23, 2013

Phil Jackson on Michael Jordan’s push-off: ‘A helping hand to a broke down comrade’

2013 NBA playoffs, Ben Golliver, Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson
Michael Jordan's infamous push-off on Bryon Russell. (NBA Photos/Getty Images)

Michael Jordan’s infamous push-off on Bryon Russell in the 1998 NBA Finals. (NBA Photos/Getty Images)

When legendary coach Phil Jackson joined Twitter in March, it was a basketball nerd’s dream come true: access to the Zen Master’s unfiltered thoughts in real time. When it turned out Jackson was simply marketing a new book? Well, dream squashed, or at least deflated.

Consider the dream totally restored. On Monday night, Chris Paul hit a game-winning floater to give the Clippers a 2-0 series lead over the Grizzlies. Many observers quickly pointed to Paul’s use of his left arm against Tony Allen — two or three clearing swipes and then a light shove to create space — to assert that perhaps a hard-fought game shouldn’t have been decided on this particular play. Jackson waded into that discussion.

“Not only are offensive players able to push off, they can use off arm to shield off defense,” he noted. “Heisman offensive move.”

Of course, such a complaint opened him wide to charges of hypocrisy, seeing as how Jackson’s sixth ring with the Bulls was delivered by Michael Jordan on a game-winning jumper during Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, a shot set up by a slight shove of Jazz guard Bryon Russell.

As the clock ticked down, Jordan operated against Russell one-on-one, driving hard to his right before slamming on the brakes and applying his left hand to Russell’s backside to ensure that the Jazz guard’s momentum kept him going towards the paint. A “love tap” is how The Point Forward termed it during our recent rundown of 50 Jordan memories for his 50th birthday. From there, a quick crossover dribble, a Russell stumble, a nothing-but-net jumper, an iconic extended follow-through, a silent gym, and the rest was history.

“It was a great basketball play, they didn’t call it,” Russell told ESPN years later. “I thought it was [a foul]. Apparently the officials didn’t, so they didn’t call it. There’s nothing for me to be upset about it.”

But what say you, Jackson? How can you reconcile Paul’s “Heisman” move with Jordan’s infamous push-off? Both are fouls, or neither is a foul, right?

phil-jackson-michael-jordan-push-off
“As per MJ’s shot in Game 6,” Jackson reasoned. “That wasn’t a push off. It was a helping hand to a broke down comrade. :-)”

That is, without a doubt, one of the greatest smiley faces in NBA history.

Video via YouTube user BusDriver300

8 comments
MohsinMDahodwala
MohsinMDahodwala

Who cares if they didn't call those plays, LeBron James gets so many calls because of his flops. If you're going to call these two as fouls, then you can't ignore the myriad flops that James has used to get to the line. 

PorfirioR
PorfirioR

Neither play was a foul. The shooter is entitled to his space. This is equivalent to boxing out for the shooter. As long as the shooter does not extend his arms or grabs (just like someone boxing out for a rebound), it is a fair basketball play.  If the defender does not want to get moved from the shooter's space, then don't get so close.

gdett
gdett

This is nothing but the problem of basketball, and most sports today. It is all about cheating: there are rules designed to make the game fair and exciting and enjoyable, but all we see is referees and umpires deciding that they are not worth enforcing. In basketball, everyone carries the ball, walks, double dribbles freely, physically controls the opposition, enters the lane at any time, offensive players and referees ignore lane violations, etc, etc. If these things are acceptable, why not change the rules to reflect that? In college ball, the referees "let them play" until they decide not to. The game is becoming a mess.

Sidizen
Sidizen

More proof that the NBA is all about highlighting the superstars; the rules don't matter.

RockLancaster
RockLancaster

Why, has Magic come out of retirement again?

SportPage
SportPage

@PorfirioR The shooter IS entitled to his space, and that space is his body square and extending up. The defender can get as close as he wants without touching, and is also entitled to do so. 

When the offensive player uses his hand to push the defender in any direction, that is a foul.

Clearly, MJ extended his arm when he pushed Scott out of his way. Foul.

TimothyLucas
TimothyLucas

@SportPage @PorfirioR"The defender can get as close as he wants w/out touching..." And you can clearly see Byron touching MJ especially his off hand all the way through the shot.  He got in a shoving match and lost.  The rest is history.