Phil Jackson has won his 534th game as the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach, the most in club history, beating out Pat Riley. Jackson has become as synonymous with Los Angeles as he is with Chicago, maintaining an elite image in the minds of fans in two different huge NBA markets.
In 1998, after leading the Chicago Bulls to six titles in nine years, Jackson was named by the NBA as one of the 10 best coaches in league history. Twelve years and four titles later, he must be recognized now as the face of coaching in the NBA, the league’s alpha dog head coach.
Previous to coaching, Jackson was drafted as a player by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1967 NBA draft. Despite bench-warming his entire career, he was well-known around the league for his hard work, basketball intelligence, and prowess on the defensive end.
After retiring from playing professional basketball in 1980, Jackson turned his attention to coaching, starting in lower-level pro leagues such as the Continental Basketball Association.
Turned down many times when applying for coaching positions in the NBA, Jackson was finally given an assistant coaching position with the Chicago Bulls in 1987, and was promoted to head coach in 1989. From there, Jackson developed phenomenal bonds with his upcoming players and won six championships during his tenure in Chicago.
He retired in 1998, telling media outlets he would never consider coaching again. However, his love for the game overwhelmed him, forcing him to accept a position as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson took over a very talented Lakers team and won NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
After 2004, Jackson briefly retired again, citing tension with Kobe Bryant as his main reason. He was then rehired after 2005 when the coaches that replaced him were having trouble running the team. After reaching the finals a few times again, Jackson celebrated his 10th NBA Championship last season by defeating the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals in only five games.
He is regarded as a master of mind games, clinching the nickname “Zen Master.” Never in his career has he not made the NBA playoffs, leaving him as the premier coach of his sport, and perhaps the ultimate strategist in sports history.