65 Years, 13 NBA Titles, One Phil Jackson

Jeff Skibiski —  September 16, 2010

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Tomorrow marks the 65th birthday for venerable Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. With 13 rings as a player and coach already under his belt, the Hall of Famer has spent 20 percent of his life winning NBA titles. By now, we’re all familiar with his staggering career success rate—1,098 wins and a .705 winning percentage—so let’s instead celebrate some of Phil’s most memorable musings over the years, both from his books and via interviews. What are your favorite Jacksonisms?

“In basketball—as in life—true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way.”

“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.”

“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but being compassionate towards yourself, your teammates and your opponents.”

“Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game–and life—will take care of itself.”

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish on the basketball floor.”

“Red and I, I think, have a mutual admiration. That’s all I can say.”

“If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball”

“Despite their tremendous talent, (NBA players) are still, by and large, young adults, seeking validation from an authority figure, and there is no greater authority figure on a team than the coach. Needless to say, in today’s warped, self-indulgent climate, too many players couldn’t care less about appeasing the coach.”

“The best part of basketball, for those people on the inside, is the bus going to the airport after you’ve won a game on an opponent’s floor. It’s been a very tough battle. And preferably, in the playoffs. And that feeling that you have, together as a group, having gone to an opponent’s floor and won a very good victory, is as about as high as you can get.”

“Count me in. After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It’ll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one.”

As a bonus, check out the video below for an interview with Jackson, fresh after winning this year’s title.

Jeff Skibiski


to 65 Years, 13 NBA Titles, One Phil Jackson

  1. My personal favourite:

    Enjoy the journey, not the destination.


  2. Maybe we all have been focusing on the wrong thing. Jordan came, and did his thing. He retired. Along came Shaq and Kobe, and then just Kobe. Then LeBron made is debut (and later his Decision). We basketball fans have been arguing over whose era it is. We have argued over who is the “heir” to Jordan.

    Maybe it’s wasn’t Jordan’s era. Maybe the current king is not Kobe or LeBron. Maybe it’s been the Phil Jackson era all this time and we just didn’t realize it. Phil has dominated this league for 20 years. It is a coincidence that Jordan, Pippen, Shaquille, and Kobe all reached their zenith under the direction of Phil? I seriously think not. When it comes to coaching there is Phil Jackson and everyone else. Phil’s has cast his shadow over the league in a way few other people have. Over the last two decades I think of three men who have been just as important to the NBA as any player during the same period: Jerry Buss, Jerry West, and Phil Jackson.

    Everyone is sure Kevin Durant will be the next “great” NBA star, the next Jordan, the next Kobe. Who will be the next Phil Jackson? I wonder.


  3. There will never be another like Phil. It’s possible someone may come along and eventually outhaul Phil’s totals, but highly doubtful this will occur anytime soon. We need to simply appreciate what he’s done and will do this next season. I constantly pinch myself to remind me that these times don’t last forever and should be enjoyed to the fullest. We have been fortunate to have our team so frequently winning titles or competing for them. There will come a time again when we are not on top (or near it). Hopefully those times will be few. Soak up all that we, as Laker fans, have. And to Phil – thank you. If it truly is to be his last year, let’s send him out with another NBA title.


  4. “And that feeling that you have, together as a group, having gone to an opponent’s floor and won a very good victory, is as about as high as you can get.”

    Bill Bradley, who was extremely successful outside the NBA, said that winning a title gives a feeling of total accomplishment, like nothing else he experienced.


  5. Mildly off-topic, but here’s a nice article about Lamar Odom at the Worlds by veteran NBA writer Jack MacCallum:



  6. Extremely off-topic, but I find it somewhat hilarious that everyone is up in arms over the defacing of Omri Casspi’s mural with a swastika shown in this link. Considering the swastika is obviously a left-facing, horizontal swastika, and most definitely not the right-facing, diagonal swastika associated with the Nazis, we must contemplate whether it is more ironic that either the perpetrator was attempting to be racist and failed, or the news reporters fail to realize that the former symbol holds many different representations in different cultures, notably the sun, life, or good luck. If you’re going to be racist, at least get it right, and if you’re going to be upset, at least be upset at the act of vandalism and not its false racist implications.


  7. Zephid,

    I don’t find this hilarious at all. Left facing or right, the intention of this action is clear regardless of the execution.


  8. How can the best Philism of all time not be on here?

    When asked what kind of message he was trying to send his players, Phil responded:

    “It’s hard out here for a pimp.”


  9. Also the possibility that it wasn’t an act of racism as much as it was an act of doing what the perpetrator thought would get the most attention.


  10. Maybe the perpetrator wanted to say that Omri was a Buddhist. It’s a sign of buddhist temples in South Korea, and probably in Japan and China as well.

    As for Phil, well, I didn’t like him much when he sided with Shaq… and not sure if I’ll like him if he ends up in the middle of the ownership mess once Jerry decides to hand it over to his children.

    But really, I can only think of three other who come close to dominating or being present for such a long time – Bill & Red, and Kareem.

    I find odd comfort and more destined rivalry seeing how the C’s have two and the Lakers have two in my totally subjective list. Too bad that our guys all weren’t ‘lifelong’ Lakers, that’s the thing that’s gnawing at me, but oh well.


  11. 7, I think you missed my point. The point is that the intention is assumed, not evident. It is assumed that the perpetrator was creating a blatantly racist act of vandalism, and was simply ignorant of the fact that a left-facing, horizontal swastika has a completely different connotation from a right-facing, diagonal swastika (to the informed, at least). However, it is equally as likely that the perpetrator may have knowingly drawn the “incorrect” symbol, knowing that the media and the public would have such an outcry over something they obviously don’t understand. While I would never do such a thing, I could understand that someone could get a kick out of misleading people, and not simply commit vandalism as a simple hate crime.

    Like a lot of things in basketball, people will see only what they wish to see. If they wish to think that Phil Jackson was only successful because of his players, that will be all that they see. Similarly, if people wish to see racism, that is all they will see. Try looking at things from a different perspective.


  12. Zephid it sure sounds like you have given this a lot of thought, almost like… you are the perpetrator…

    on a more serious note, I like the “Phil Era” idea from T Rogers. No doubt about his influence in the league. Phil’s also on another level when it comes to pissing opposition off and insulting other cities.


  13. T Rogers hits it…

    I’m sure he was referring to the geologic time scale.

    Supereon = All US professional sports
    Eon = eon of the the NBA
    Era = Era of Phil Jackson
    Period = Period of Kobe
    Epoch = Kobe/Pau epoch (the third of 3 Epochs in the Kobe Period following the Kobe/Shaq and Kobe/Smush Epochs

    As homo sapiens we are in the Holocene epoch but as Laker fans we are living in the Kobe/Pau epoch.


  14. Zephid,
    For this to not be a ‘hate crime’, the person would have to be reasonably intelligent and more than a little subtle. For this kind of thing, that means a very small portion of the human race could be responsible.

    Your possibility certainly can be looked at, but for that to occur seems improbable – at best.


  15. 14, true, so it’s a lot more likely that he’s a racist dude who got it wrong. But I think it should be the media’s responsibility to report the fact that the swastika was “incorrect” (many news outlets didn’t), and that the “incorrect” version has different social and cultural connotations from the “correct” version (I didn’t see a single report that said this).

    12, I wouldn’t say I studied Asian Religions in college, but I did take a few courses in it. So yea, I’ve thought about things like this a lot.


  16. I love how Bill Bridges said it was the Kobe/Smush Epoch. Classic. The memory of Smush, I feel, will live on forever for Lakers fans.


  17. Some would classify it as the Smush/Kwame epoch, but since it’s the Kobe period, we’ll give it to Kobe/Smush.


  18. T Rogers hit on a really good point. Jordan, Pippen, Kobe, and Shaq all reached their pinnacles playing under Phil. Throw Pau in there, and we’ve got possibly 5 hall of famers.

    But don’t forget about the transition players like D-Fish, Bynum, Ariza, even Ron Ron went through while playing under Phil. Every one of these guys have become GAMERS in a way they never were before playing for Phil.

    The guy is a leader of the highest order, and one of the top 5 people in the world I’d like to have dinner with.


  19. Can we agree that the Kobe/Smush Era should be called the Kush Era?

    ‘Cause…as memory doesn’t serve…that was about the only way to endure those years.


  20. hey, Phil even got the best play possible out of Smush.

    but yeah, the Kush era was painful.


  21. Imagine if after winning 6 with the Lakers, Phil goes around and wins 6 with the Heat, and getting the best play out of those three over there.

    I’d hate that as a Laker fan, but honestly, if anyone could do it, it would be Phil.


  22. Zephid,

    I do see your point about the potential (very slight) for some levity in this situation, but I still don’t find any part of this funny. And I’m sure Omri Casspi doesn’t find it funny either (levity or not)


  23. My favorite Phil quote, “talk of Kobe’s demise is premature.”


  24. I like this quote:

    “An acrobatic dunk will make it onto SportsCenter. A simple, unspectacular bounce pass in the rhythm of the offense will not. System basketball has been replaced by players who want to be the system.”

    It’s not necessarily my favorite, but if Phil is going to sell his system, this would be his slogan.


  25. LadLal holy sh** that would be nuts. i joked about phil going there with friends the other day but didnt think that far into, 6 with bulls lakers and heat jordan kobe lebron and wade. only if he somehow got healthier that would be the perfect place for him to go except. As much as i love phil that would suck as a lakers fan to go against him


  26. Arhithia,

    In this world, half-references to archaic racism is somehow more important than real actions that leave the majority of the world impoverished and oppressed. To me, the white elephant is that Omri comes from a country with a ripe (and ongoing) history of racism, and that political Zionism is one of the few arcane racial ideologies that is allowed to flourish unexamined in contemporary America. The “threat” of anti-Semitism is much more salient in American media and politics than it is on American streets. Or any streets, for that matter. Racism is bad. The intent of the vandal’s action, whether tongue in cheek, or not, is clear enough that we need not invent Eastern devices to explain away what happened. To me, what is equally telling is the complete media blackout regarding calls to boycott Israeli sports teams.

    I know that my post is political, but the post itself addresses a political issue. If I have violated conduct, feel free to delete this post.


  27. 26.
    I understand what you’re saying, but I’m examining this Omri photo vandalization as an isolated case, in a vacuum where what is or is not reported on does not matter. What the media chooses to report on or not report on is definitely a problem – we definitely live in a sensationalized media world. But, I see this as a case where an innocent kid who is trying to make a living doing something he loves is victimized by a complete stranger because he belongs to a group/culture/whatever. Whether it’s the “N” word, a symbol or any other hurtful represation (or attempt at a hurtful representation) is problematic because it involves someone on the other end who doesn’t deserve it. Omri doesn’t deserve this. And whether the source of this is from someone who is uneducated doesn’t matter to me – that won’t qualify the hilarity of this because I see the other end – someone who doesn’t deserve what was done. From this perspective, the media’s motivations play no role in this because it won’t change the hurt, fear, or anger that might be felt by Omri or anyone else in his shoes.
    I appreciate everyone else’s perspective, and I apologize for continuing this conversation on the best lakers blog I know, but my empathy for Omri in this won’t allow me to find comedy in this and for that I will not apologize.
    (Think the Celtic’s blogs get this heavy?)


  28. Zephid,
    You expected the news media to get it right???

    This isn’t 1965, you know. The news media should more properly be called the entertainment media.


  29. Phil, or the triangle, got the most of a lot of players while also suffocating some others’ growth, although of the latter we have no proof but players’ claims.

    Mostly PGs, come to think, like Payton and now Farmar, but we’ll see.

    On the other hand, it’s really getting something out of Fisher who would otherwise probably be in the Cassell stage of his career, and it did get a LOT out of Kwame and Smush. To a certain extent, I think it’s got a lot out of Vlad, Walton and Ariza as well.

    But getting a lot out of Dennis and Ron in their respective stages is something that the triangle can’t get credit for; it’s mostly PJ with some MJ and KB thrown in.


  30. harold,
    It’s a system and most systems will get more out of intelligent players who are dedicated to the team and game. It is the run-and-gun style that requires the ultra high athletic players with an excess of playground skills. However, we see how many of those teams actually win championships – even going back to the start of the NBA.


  31. When Bill Bradley was running for President, and Phil was supporting him, I said that I wouldn’t vote for Bradley, but I’d vote for Phil if he was on the ballot.

    And I wasn’t joking.

    Never forget that Phil is the son of preachers. He has a sense of man’s place in the universe, a sense of the creative life force, a sense of the dynamic of becoming.


  32. Surprised nobody is live blogging the Phil-fest on NBA tv. Game 7 of the finals is on right now.

    It still amazes me how perfectly the Artest gamble worked out.

    The final game of the 2009 finals, Trevor Ariza was exactly what they needed. The final game this year, Artest was exactly what they needed. Sometimes foresight is the winning factor, sometimes you just get lucky.

    But I’ll buy either of them a drink anytime we cross paths.


  33. What’s weird was that in 2009 Ariza was exactly what they needed by being what he has never been at any other point in his career…

    This is the second game tonight that Rasheed Wallace has given up a double digit 3rd quarter lead to the Lakers in a game 7. The decade ended as it began…


  34. By the way, in those 2 game 7s that Wallace choked up, Kobe had 11 and 15 rebounds.

    A cliche not often enough mentioned in Baketball is that its a game of possessions. Watching these games on replay, its so easy to only see in terms of cumulative stats or the aesthetic beauty of any given shot. But when you watch live every possession is a drama in miniature. Every one of Kobe’s rebounds in the 4th quarter were enormous, ensuring another chance at a play that could win it for them.

    I love efficiency stats and still think they are underutilized, but without possessions, that efficiency is useless. And timeliness of plays means everything in the thick exhaustion at the end of the season.

    This game still emotionally exhausts me.


  35. J.D. Hastings,
    You have enunciated perfectly exactly why people who measure performance based on statistics miss the point so often.

    The true winner is the person who does what is needed, when it is needed. You need to watch the entire game carefully, and often repeatedly, to understand what really happened. That’s why drafting players is such a crap-shoot.


  36. Craig- Thank you. I believe in stats, but only when contextualized. Over the course of a season that may mean realizing that a high possession team is still decent defensively.

    In this care, Kobe had a bad shooting game (25?) in a game his team shot 32.5%.. But as points per shot goes, he got 25 on 24 shots while the team got 83 points on 83 shots. That’s not exactly efficiency, but EVERYBODY struggled. Kobe found that way.

    But its one of those things where you may never understand unless you experienced the game in real time on a possession by possession basis.


  37. JD Hastings,
    “The final game of the 2009 finals, Trevor Ariza was exactly what they needed. The final game this year, Artest was exactly what they needed. Sometimes foresight is the winning factor, sometimes you just get lucky.”

    And sometimes it’s the coach having them in position and prepared for the moment.


  38. >the Phil-fest on NBA tv

    yeah, when I first saw the schedule I had thought it to be a Lakers marathon. in the event, it was portrayed as honoring Jackson’s 65th; but there seemed to be *nothing* from his Bulls days. whiskey-tango-fox, over?!


  39. i am so tired of the “magic” of phil. when he was a player he was the biggest hacker known to the game. go back and find some old knicks games, like i did, and you will see one of the most patently untalented and gratuitously violent ham and egger i have ever seen.

    and then he was a lousy coach for 12 years, fired out of puerto rico and other bastions of b-ball. then he gets the jordan bulls after they struggled for five years and were ready to get it done.

    the rest is history. oh, and a lot of pot smoke and lame quips about zen garbage. when was the last time phil was really in on seminally BUILDING a team’s chemistry up to championship level? answer: never- not with the bulls or lakers.

    arguably this last lakers championship a little bit of character building, maybe. but it seemed like more of a “let ’em do it on their own” approach after the soul-less performance in the ’08 playoffs where they rolled over and died.

    but really, what did happen in ’09- was it the first act of the lebron choke show that was then perfected in ’10? and then in 2010, a raggedy a$$ celtics team takes them to 7 while phil just sits there and looks constipated on the bench? the talent and age disparity was C O N S I D E R A B L Y in favor of the lakers, no?

    yay phil. you are the greatest. go smoke some more pot and marry the boss’ daughter.