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Phil Jackson Says He Told Michael Jordan To Reduce His Number Of Shots And That He Would Probably Not Win Another Scoring Title In Order To Implement The Triangle Offense: "This Was Not Going To Be An Easy Conversation."

Phil Jackson Says He Told Michael Jordan To Reduce His Number Of Shots And That He Would Probably Not Win Another Scoring Title In Order To Implement The Triangle Offense: "This Was Not Going To Be An Easy Conversation."

Michael Jordan had two distinct phases in his career, for the early part of his NBA stint, MJ was an incredible scorer, a lock for MVP, and the best scorer in the league. And for the latter half, he was a ruthless winning machine, dominating the NBA and leading the Chicago Bulls to two separate three-peats. in the 1990s. 

This is not to say that MJ wasn't an elite scorer while he was winning, he was, but a lot of the credit for the success of those Bulls teams goes to his teammates, co-stars like Scottie Pippen, and Head Coach Phil Jackson. Jackson implemented the 'Triangle Offense' in Chicago, and doing so required the team's superstar to buy into the system. 

This would prove a bit tricky, as the entire system was about the ball flowing and moving around, which meant Jordan would be taking fewer shots than before, something the superstar himself was concerned about. And in his book Eleven Rings, Jackson explained how he had that difficult conversation with Jordan. 

"This was not going to be an easy conversation. Basically I was planning to ask Michael, who had won his third scoring title in a row the previous season, to reduce the number of shots he took so that other members of the team could get more involved in the offense. I knew this would be a challenge for him: Michael was only the second player to win both a scoring title and the league MVP award in the same year, the first being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971.

:I told him that I was planning to implement the triangle and, as a result, he probably wouldn’t be able to win another scoring title. 'You’ve got to share the spotlight with your teammates,' I said, 'because if you don’t, they won’t grow.'

"'Okay, I guess I could average thirty-two points,' he said. 'That’s eight points a quarter. Nobody else is going to do that.'

'Well, when you put it that way, maybe you can win the title,' I said. 'But how about scoring a few more of those points at the end of the game?'

"Looking back, Michael says that he liked this approach because it 'allowed me to be the person I needed to be.' Sometimes I would tell him that he needed to be aggressive and set the tone for the team. Other times I’d say, 'Why don’t you try to get Scottie going so that the defenders will go after him and then you can attack?'

In general, I tried to give Michael room to figure out how to integrate his personal ambitions with those of the team. 'Phil knew that winning the scoring title was important to me,' Michael says now, 'but I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t take away from what the team was doing.'"

MJ had won 3 consecutive scoring titles before Jackson took over, but despite his warnings, Jordan won 4 more during the first 4 seasons of Jackson's coaching stint to go along with 3 championships. MJ would add 3 more scoring titles after returning from his first retirement, all of those under Phil Jackson, meaning he was the NBA's scoring leader for every full season that he played under Phil. Jordan would retire with 10 NBA scoring titles to his name.

Michael Jordan stayed averaging 30 points or more under Phil Jackson even after the Zen Master implemented his offense, a testament to MJ's greatness and Phile's flexibility in adjusting his system. And asking MJ to pass paid dividends down the line as well, with the superstar finding teammates like Paxson and Kerr in clutch situations in Finals games to make the winning plays and clinch NBA titles.