2010 NBA Finals: Phil Jackson's Legacy in Peril
In establishing criteria for naming the greatest NBA player of all time, one might consider athleticism, skill set, versatility, and number of rings, to name a few. And normally, the conversation begins and ends with Michael Jordan . Claiming all of the above qualities for the length of his storied career, he forever raised the benchmark for greatness with a killer instinct to match his sensational resume.
Auerbach quickly turned these Celtics into a perrenial playoff team who played high-octane, fast-break basketball, resembling a modern Phoenix Suns team. Though they made the playoffs every year until 1956, they, “Would get tired in the end,” as Auerbach put it and fall to teams with a greater post presence. It was then that Auerbach decided they needed a defensive big man who could control the paint and grab rebounds that led to easy fast break points . was that man, and alongside point guard Bob Cousy , the Celtics won the NBA Championship an unprecedented nine times in the next eleven years. This all came in time as Auerbach learned to make adjustments with his roster and style of play. It is Auerbach’s genius, his ability to make the adjustments alongside the nine rings that make him special.
The 2008 NBA Finals marked the second time that a Jackson-coached team was unable to get it done in the Finals (The first being 2004.) Going into the 2008 NBA Finals the favorite, Jackson’s Lakers seemingly had the edge in almost every category, particularly coaching. was dubbed too inexperienced to make the necessary adjustments to guide his Celtics to a Finals victory, but he had other plans.
Rivers outcoached Jackson for the better part of six games, employing a hard-nosed defense that stifled the Lakers ’ frontline and hassled Kobe Bryant into 40% shooting. Jackson had six games to counter the aggressiveness of Rivers’ Celtics, but his adjustments only played into the hands of Boston and his game plan came up short as the Celtics closed out the series with an emphatic 39-point victory, the most lopsided clincher in .
The ball is in Jackson’s court. He can show the world that he will not be outplayed by the same team twice and achieve everything you possibly can as an NBA coach or he can fall to these Celtics again, tarnishing what is otherwise a legendary career. Because despite his ten championship rings, he will be remembered as the coach who always had rosters with enough talent to coast on, and more importantly as the Zen Master who never could quite master taking out these big, bad Boston Celtics.
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