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Steve Kerr reveals Phil Jackson’s real motivation for marking ’99 Spurs with asterisk

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Former Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs point guard Steve Kerr has opened up about a contentious remark made by the great Phil Jackson more than two decades ago about the asterisk on the Spurs’ 1999 championship.

The 1998-99 campaign was a lockout season that did not start until February. As a result, teams were only able to play in a condensed 50-game regular season. As such, many believe that that year’s championship had a big asterisk on it. We actually included it in our recent list of biggest asterisk titles in NBA history.

As it turns out, Jackson had the exact same idea. In 1999, the legendary coach expressed why he believed that whoever won the title that season would not be “a real NBA champion — just one that is tainted. … I’m just glad we stopped one year short of maybe the team’s fullest potential because this year is going to be an asterisk anyway.” After winning his sixth title with the Bulls in ’98, Jackson decided to take a hiatus form basketball.

For Steve Kerr, who played under Jackson in Chicago prior to joining the Spurs as part of that ’99 championship, it was all about mind games from his former coach:

“That’s just Phil,” sighs Kerr, who remains friendly Jackson, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “When he first mentioned the asterisk, I just rolled my eyes, because I knew his game.

“He likes to provoke, to get under people’s skin. He was poking the Spurs because they were a threat.”

Being one of the most successful coaches of this generation, Kerr himself knows a thing or two about mind games. Perhaps he even has a better appreciation of Jackson’s actions now that he has been put in his shoes.