WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson, now current president of the New York Knicks, once compared opposing players and coaches to Edward Norton’s white supremacist character in the movie “American History X” and Hitler, to motivate his 2000 championship Lakers roster in the playoffs.
There’s a scene in the movie, shared between Norton (Derek Vinyard) and actor/comedian Guy Torre (Lamont), in which the two characters can be seen arguing over team loyalties of the Lakers and Celtics, that’s also been used by Jackson for motivational purposes.
Torre, in town to perform at DC Improv from June 5 through June 8, recalled the scenario Thursday in studio with the Junkies:
“Phil used that movie in game sessions, in the Shaq and Kobe era, when they were playing the Sacramento Kings,” Torre recalled.
“Just to get them really pissed off?” Lurch asked.
“Yea, because they had, remember Jason Williams, the white point guard, looked like Ed Norton?” Torre said. “And then Adelman kinda looked like Hitler.”
“He looked like Hitler?” JP asked.
“Well, you know, he had that little mustache, and he had that hair,” Torre said.
“That’s not very Zen-like of Phil,” Cakes said.
“Yes it is, because what happened was, during game study, he would have Jason Williams come down the court and then do a clip of Ed Norton from American History X, and then have Adelman on the sideline with his arms folded, and then a picture of Hitler,” Torre said. “So the players said, when they took the court, that’s all they could remember, because those were some tough battles in those years with the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. And so, it was very Zen-like, to be honest, because they took that on the court with them.”
After a little digging, I was able to uncover a June 18, 2000 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, confirming Torre’s account.
Jackson likes to splice together tape of his team juxtaposed with movies to motivate his team. Last week, for example, “The Green Mile” was interspersed into the team’s film session.
Against the Kings, Jackson weaved in the face of Kings guard Jason Williams with actor Ed Norton from the film “American History X” – presumably because of their resemblance with shaved heads.
However, the juxtaposition of a picture of [Rick] Adelman alongside one of German dictator Adolf Hitler – again because of a perceived resemblance – did not go over well with Adelman.
“If he did that, that’s crossing the line, I think,” Adelman said. “I’ve got my master’s in history, and Hitler did many things to which I would never want to be linked.”
However absurd such motivational tactics may appear to be, it’s difficult to deny their success, as Jackson’s Lakers would go on to win their series against the Kings, 3-2, then defeat the Suns, Trail Blazers and Pacers on the way to winning their first of three championships under Jackson.