LeBron James: The Next Superstar in Line to Be Coached by Phil Jackson?

Tyler Lambert@@Tblamb2you2Senior Analyst IMay 25, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23  of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts late in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Having the opportunity to coach Michael Jordan, the greatest scorer and player in NBA history, to six titles with the Chicago Bulls: Check.

Having the opportunity to coach Kobe Bryant, the greatest offensive player in the NBA today, to four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and possibly on the cusp of winning their fifth ring together this season: Check.

Winning a championship in 10 out of the first 17 seasons he has coached: Check.

Having his teams never miss the playoffs or ending the season with a losing record: Check.

Having the opportunity to coach the greatest player in the NBA today, LeBron James, to multiple championships with the Chicago Bulls in the years to come: Good Possibility.

Phil Jackson, one of the most decorated coaches in basketball history, has made a name for himself by handling multiple superstars on his teams at the same time. Just look at the Bull's teams of the 1990's and the Laker's teams of the 2000's.

Jordan and Scottie Pippen were two, if not the best, players in the NBA during the Bull's six championship seasons under the leadership of Coach Jackson. They won three of their titles in a row from 1991-1993, and then completed the three-peat again from 1996-1998.

Most people give all of the credit to Jordan and overlook the importance of Pippen during those playoff runs. They also overlook how well Jackson coached each of these superstars, allowing them to play together as a team without one trying to take the credit over the other.

Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, both crucial components to the Laker's three-peat from 2000-2002, had different mindsets when they stepped on the hardwood. Neither player wanted the other to get the upper hand, and thus they constantly criticized each other through the press on an almost daily basis.

After their arguments became known to the public, Jackson would sit each of the superstars down and talk through the situation. If one of the two players would get upset and storm out of his office, Jackson would know exactly what to say to the other to allow them to forget about their feud altogether.

This went on during each of the seasons that Bryant and O'Neal were together in Los Angeles until the Lakers traded Shaq to the Miami Heat in July of 2004. Although they had chemistry on the court, once they entered the locker room, it was a completely different story.

In the end, though, Phil Jackson handled their public feud better than any coach possibly could. He convinced both Kobe and Shaq to get over their differences for 48 minutes, the length of a game, and that led to three consecutive championships for the Lakers.   

Jackson has now led his team to the NBA Finals the past two seasons, winning the NBA Championship in 2009, and has his team on the verge of a third consecutive Finals appearance after strong showings in the first three games of the Western Conference Finals this year against the Phoenix Suns.

It's hard to imagine that Jackson would walk-out on a team consisting of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom, but a potential pay-cut to renew his contract may have Jackson thinking about other possible places to coach for the 2011 NBA season.

One organization that is considered the favorite to land Jackson if he doesn't return to the Lakers next year would be his former team, the Chicago Bulls. Led by up-and-coming star Derrick Rose and the hard-working Joakim Noah, it's hard not to consider the young talent that is lurking in Chicago. 

The overwhelming decision that will influence Jackson the most, however, will be where LeBron James ends up after the season comes to an end. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I highly doubt that Jackson would even consider leaving the Lakers organization.

If LeBron was traded by the Cavaliers to the Bulls, Nets, or any other team with a coaching vacancy, however, I could see the possibility that Phil Jackson may choose to also follow the superstar to that individual team.

Jackson has learned how to manage superstars: He did it with Michale Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and I'm sure he would have no problem handling the King himself, LeBron James, as well. It's just a matter of what happens during the offseason, what trades will go down, that will influence Jackson the most.

If he is looking to continue winning, then Los Angeles is the place to be. Even if he has to take a cut in pay, I'm sure he would rather have Kobe closing out the end of games than any other player in the league.

If he is looking for a new start with a new superstar, however, then following JeBron James to his next destination may be the smartest decision.

I have no clue how this entire situation will play out, and I have no clue if LeBron will even leave the Cavaliers when he has the opportunity. All I do know, however, is that this NBA offseason is going to be one of the best in the history of the league. Get ready for a crazy summer full of potential blockbuster trades and new coaches filling vacancies!


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