One of the most successful figures in NBA history is Phil Jackson. He is recognized as not only a valuable coach with the most NBA championships in history but also as a player who won championships as a role player. For his incredible basketball mind and personable talents, Phil Jackson is a winner of the highest order. When looking at his career from top to bottom it is clear he is one of the most successful sports figures in the history of North America.
Phil Jackson coached some of the greatest players of all time including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal, and has a record of achieving three separate three-peats as the leader of these players. As a player, Phil Jackson wasn't a star but his intangibles and basketball mind were key whenever he was needed off the bench.
It is time to revisit the entire career of Phil Jackson, the man behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant's dominance in the NBA.
Phil Jackson As A Player - 2 Championships
As previously mentioned, Phil Jackson was not a star player. Jackson played 12 years in the NBA averaging a career 6.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG in 17.6 MPG. As a 6'8 power forward, he provided size and intangibles at his position to shore up his team's depth. Jackson was drafted with the number 17 pick and the 1967 NBA draft by the New York Knicks and played there for the first 10 years of his career. He won 2 NBA championships with the Knicks and even made the All-Rookie Team in his first season.
His best seasons as a player came in 1974 and 1975 when he averaged 11.1 PPG and 10.8 PPG respectively. Nobody saw this kind of production coming from Phil Jackson who played over 27 minutes per game over those two seasons. In terms of overall skill level, Jackson knew his role and played with heart and passion on both ends. It is clear he was destined for a head coaching job because he simply knew the game even though he wasn't blessed with natural athleticism outside of his size.
Coach Of The Chicago Bulls - 6 Championships
When people think of the Chicago Bulls, they immediately think of Michael Jordan. After all, the GOAT won 6 NBA championships with the franchise including 6 Finals MVPs. It was Michael Jordan who made the Chicago Bulls relevant and he will forever be recognized as arguably the most dominant athlete in the history of team sports. But the man pulling the strings behind the Bulls dynasty was Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time.
Known as the Zen Master, Jackson knew how to push every single player's buttons on the Bulls team to keep them focused and hungry for a title every season. Even an enigma like Dennis Rodman was able to be controlled by Phil Jackson, and he knew when to reign in the players when it was time to work, and when to let them free. Even if Michael Jordan's talent was enough for him to become an NBA champion no matter what, he may not have achieved his inhuman level of greatness without Phil Jackson. Keeping a team hungry for 6 NBA championships is no easy feat, but Phil Jackson was able to keep everyone together and continuously make the Bulls a dominant force on both ends of the floor. Phil Jackson also knew his place, which is why he dubbed the Bull's last championship as "The Last Dance".
Jackson won his 6 championships with the Bulls during two separate three-peats, something so extraordinary that it will likely never happen again. With 6 titles under his name, Phil Jackson would go on to make more history with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Coach Of The Los Angeles Lakers - 5 Championships
Whenever people think of the Lakers, they immediately think of Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba won 5 championships with the Lakers and is one of the most skilled players to ever play the game. Fittingly enough, he was also the student of Michael Jordan and the closest thing to the Bulls legend in the style of play and skillset. Phil Jackson got to coach the great Kobe Bryant alongside the most dominant modern force in NBA history in Shaquille O'Neal.
With Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant on the roster, Phil Jackson led the Lakers to his third three-peat as a coach. The Lakers were unstoppable because of their mix of inside and outside scoring, and their defense was fueled by Jackson's philosophy. No team came close to the dominance the Lakers had in the early 2000s, and the Zen Master deserves a lot of credit for keeping the egos of O'Neal and Bryant in check for that long.
As in the case with the majority of great players, O'Neal and Bryant did not want to play with each other anymore and Jackson was forced to form a contender with Kobe Bryant alone. It took a few years, but Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant were able to win two more championships in 2009 and 2010 when Pau Gasol joined the team. That means Phil Jackson has a total of 11 NBA titles as a head coach not including the two championships he won as a player.
The closest thing to Phil Jackson is Red Auerbach, but he could not match Jackson's success as an NBA champion. Auerbach has 9 NBA titles including 8 straight with the Bill Russell Celtics, Jackson was able to coach Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant while winning 11 rings. Jackson had the luxury and privilege of coaching the greatest players of all time, but his ability to push his players' buttons and make critical in-game adjustments is the reason he is the greatest coach of all time and it isn't close.
Credit for the idea: kingarnanda