New York Knicks President Phil Jackson made two admissions regarding marijuana Tuesday night: One about his personal use 47 years ago and the other, more importantly, about the league’s current culture.
Jackson, considered by many the greatest coach in league history, said that, like Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, he used marijuana to treat back pain. Jackson, who missed the entire 1969-70 NBA season after having back surgery, admitted he used cannabis as a pain reliever at the time.
“I don’t know about its medicinal ability,” Jackson told CBS Sports. “I had back surgery, and the year I was off, I was smoking marijuana during that period of time. I think it was a distraction for me as much as a pain reliever. But I’ve never thought of it as ultimately a pain medication for that type of situation. I know ocular things, stomach, digestive issues and other things, I think it is regarded quite highly.
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But it is his comments about the current status of the league that is most relevant.
“We’re in a situation that’s in flux,” Jackson continued. “We have states — Washington, D.C., Colorado — have legalized marijuana. Those are going to raise issues. We also have a testing regimen that we go through in the NBA, so we’re kind of in conflict with what is going to be the law. I see that as a matter of a decision that — I don’t know if we can equate it to gay marriage or whatever else, but it’s a decision that’s going to be made by our population at some point. They’re going to come out and make that decision for us, I think, instead of legislatures trying to make the decision. I think that we have tried to stop it in the NBA. I don’t think we have been able to stop it in the NBA. I think it still goes on and is still a part of the culture in the NBA. I think it is something that we either have to accommodate or figure out another way to deal with it.”
When one of the league’s most respected executives says that marijuana is “part of the culture of the NBA,” it speaks volumes.
Earlier this week, Kerr admitted to trying marijuana to help with back pain following surgery. He also said players should not be punished for using marijuana for medical use.
Former players are also speaking out in favor of cannabis instead of opiates. In a story for the Players’ Tribune earlier this year, former Chicago Bulls guard Jay Williams said he became addicted to painkillers following a motorcycle crash that ended his NBA career.
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