In Memory...

Published on January 1st, 2014 | by Clint Davis

Uncle Phil’s Greatest Hits (RIP: James Avery)

2014 is less than a day old and ’90s kids everywhere have already been dealt a crushing blow. James Avery, the man responsible for not only voicing Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series but also for bringing the honorable Phillip Banks to life in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died Tuesday at the age of 65. Uncle Phil, as we all knew him, was one of the greatest father figures in television history because of one key attribute: He kept it REAL.

Phil was the master of putting people in their place–especially his nephew Will Smith. At the end of the day, you always knew Phil loved everyone in his house but his larger than life frame and profession as a judge made him both intimidating and constant fodder for insults from Will.

phil 3 with will

Here are some of the best lines from Uncle Phil. In short, the moments where he kept it the realest.

Season 1 – Episode: “The Fresh Prince Project”

Uncle Phil gives Will a life lesson on being black, but the kid isn’t paying attention:

          “Look at me when I’m talking to you. Let me tell you something, son. I grew up on the streets just like you. I encountered bigotry you could not imagine. Now you have a nice poster of Malcolm X on your wall. I heard the brother speak. I read every word he wrote. Believe me, I KNOW where I come from!”

Season 1 – Episode: “Bang the Drum, Ashley”

Phil cuts Will down to size after he’s told he’s wrecking his rep:

          “You’re only 17. You don’t have a rep yet. “

You can pretty much say that to any kid on Twitter and it will ring true.

Season 1 – Episode: “Mistaken Identity”

Unk’ didn’t limit his realness to family members, in this scene where Will and Carlton were wrongfully arrested he even gets raw on a police officer:

          “I’ve got a few questions for you. When you got this alleged confession from these two young men, did they have a lawyer present? No, because I’m their lawyer. Did you notify their parents? No, because we’re their parents. So, officer, don’t tell us to wait and don’t tell us to sit down, just open that damn cellar and let those two boys out of there or I’m going to tie this place up with so much litigation that your grandchildren are going to need lawyers!”

Season 2 – Episode: “Granny Gets Busy”

Aunt Vivian tells Phil she’s going to seduce him with an outfit that will “knock [his] socks off,”:

          “My socks are already off. Just step out naked.”

That’s what you call pussy control.

Season 3 – Episode: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

Will makes the mistake of comparing his new rasta-inspired look to Uncle Phil’s afro and dashiki back in the day, needless to say Phil gets real:

          “But I was making a cultural statement. You’re just drawing attention to yourself.”

Once again, say this to any kid today with an Instagram account and the conversation is instantly over.

Season 4 – Episode: “Will Goes a Courtin'”

When Phil sticks out his hand to Will, his nephew shakes it–not what Unk’ wanted:

          “I don’t want your hand, I want my rent.”


Season 4 – Episode: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was infamous for using “very special episodes” to send a meaningful message to its audience. Often, the show would get very serious and sometimes end with characters in tears. My favorite of these episodes was when Will’s deadbeat dad Lou Smith drops by but decides to take off before getting to spend any real time with his son. Uncle Phil opens up a can of verbal whoop-ass on him:

          “Will is not a coat that you hang in the closet then pick it up when you’re ready to wear it. His life goes on. He’s not supposed to be here for you, you’re supposed to be here for him.”

Season 1 – Episode: “Banks Shot”

Finally, my all-time favorite Uncle Phil moment came when he taught Will a lesson about blowing cash at sleazy pool halls…by pulling off the greatest hustle job since Tom Cruise in The Color of Money.

Rest in Peace James Avery, a TV dad we would all have loved to have!

phil 1

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at

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