A Ku Indeed!

The NBA’s Po Yi

Posted in Fun, Life by Chris on July 11, 2008

I’m rereading the Mencius for next week’s seminar discussions. The work is filled with great philosophical content, but when I came across 2A9 I couldn’t help but to think of something else: basketball.

Here’s the relevant passage:

Mencius said: “Po Yi woiuld serve only the right prince and befriend only the right man. He would not take his place at the court of an evil man, nor would he converse with him. For him to do so would be like sitting in mud and pitch wearing a court cap and gown.”

The rest of the passage is also relevant to the point, but that small part is sufficient. Reading it I could only think of one thing: Phil Jackson. I will say no more — if you are a basketball fan (well, and critical of the career of Phil Jackson), you’ll likely know what I mean.

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4 Responses

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  1. Manyul Im said, on July 12, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hey Chris,

    2A9 is ever so critical of Bo Yi, stating that he was “narrow” (ai 隘). But in the other passages (3B15, 4A13, 5B10, 6B26, 7A22, and 7B61) where Mencius speaks of him, Bo Yi seems only praised, with no ambivalence–highly praised in some of these. That may have to do with stratification of text–I don’t have a theory about that.

    I imagine there are ambivalent fans of Jackson (*too* even-tempered? riding on coattails of the two of the greatest small forwards ever?) and ones who only praise him.

  2. Chris said, on July 12, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Manyul –

    My criticism of Jackson is similar to Mencius’ criticism in 2A9 — as a coach, “he would only serve if the players were all great” (as you note about forwards) and if “the conditions were right for the NBA championship to be won immediately.”

    Moreover, I could imagine the thought of coaching a start-up team as being to him like “lying in the mud and pitch.” Too pure to be sullied by anything less than the best, I suppose. Put it this way: if he HAD passed Auerbach as the coach with the most championships, I would have placed a bit fat asterisk after the new record (where the asterisk would stand for some long list of pejoratives). No Jackson fan am I. I was very happy to watch Boston take them to the woodshed (and as a native NYCer, I’m no Boston fan either) this year.

    I’m doing a second re-reading through Mencius today — I’ll keep my eye out for those other passages too, thanks for the passage list!

  3. Alexus McLeod said, on July 12, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I’m with Chris here–I’m not the biggest fan of the Zen Master either. And I’ve never liked the Lakers, and I like Kobe Bryant even less than both. And I’m a Celts fan on top of all this. Watching Kobe and crew getting decimated in Game 6 of the Finals in Boston was one of the greatest moments in sports for me (probably only second to the Redskins’ 2nd quarter comeback and then massacre of the Broncos in the 1988 Super Bowl).

    Another “unjunzi-like” thing Jackson will likely do is stay in the NBA until he takes Auerbach’s record, then retire. I suspect that’s what it’s all about for him now (of course, I’m not sure what the junzi would do in his shoes–stay around to build good future teams?).

    Bo Yi indeed.

  4. Sam said, on July 17, 2008 at 7:23 am

    When I presented this to my class, without looking at your answer of Jackson, the consensus was that the NBA guy closest to Bo Yi is….Kobe.


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