Phil Jackson Reportedly Told Lakers He Had Prostate Cancer During 2011 Playoffs

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2013

During a time where Phil Jackson is supposedly "itching" for an NBA return, we're finally beginning to get a good idea of why he stepped away in the first place.

In the legendary coach's upcoming book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, Jackson admits publicly that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2011. Jackson kept the information private after hearing the news, and doctors told him the condition could be dealt with via drugs initially.

Eventually, though, the Hall of Famer did tell his players—doing so in the most Jacksonian way possible—as a motivational ploy during the 2011 NBA playoffs. According to the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding (membership required), Jackson saw his players slipping and hoped telling them would spark a renaissance.

Forward Pau Gasol spoke with Ding about his feelings when hearing the news, saying:

Shocking. But then you also could understand certain moments of his demeanor, energy and involvement because of what he was going through health-wise. It explained certain things. It was a shock. A difficult moment for the team.

Long renowned for his ability to manipulate his superstars, Jackson's motivational ploy did not work in 2011. The Lakers, going for their third consecutive NBA championship, went on to get swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. The embarrassing defeat marked the end of Jackson's coaching career—at least, what most thought was the end. 

There is no word on Jackson's current prognosis, though Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk notes he did have surgery in hopes of curing the condition. Reports last year said Jackson was in better health but did not specify anything cancer-related. 

That will definitely be a storyline if, as reported, Jackson is interested in a return to the NBA. 

Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported earlier this week that the Raptors were considering making a run at Jackson, and the Brooklyn Nets made him a target for their head-coaching vacancy during the season. 

While there is no word on whether Jackson will return to the bench or a front office, our hopes are first and foremost with the legendary coach's good health.


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