In the film 'Gladiator', Maximus says:
"What we do in life echoes in eternity."
And Phil Jackson's legacy is certainly destined to echo throughout eternity.
Phil puts the master in the word 'masterpiece', and throughout Phil's coaching career, the message has generally been the same:
With the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson has coached a total of 19 NBA seasons, during which he has won 11 NBA titles. What he has done with the teams he has coached has produced phenomenal results. He is the Zen-Master. He is the miracle worker. He is Half-Man-Half-Amazing.
Phil Jackson is the Greatest Coach in NBA History. (Hold on Auerbach fans, I can explain)
Let's start from the beginning....
Phil "The Mop" Jackson played college ball at North Dakota. His feisty game-play, hustle attitude, and solid defense, allowed the 6-8 senior to put up a good 27 points per game. By the end of the season, Phil was ready for the NBA Draft.
Jackson was picked up by the New York Knicks in the second round, where he was taught to be unselfish. The Knick's crowd grew to love him because of his non-stop hustle, his will to succeed, and the fact that he rode his bicycle to every home game.
Phil was never a great scorer, but through his aggressive defense and scrappy rebounding, he was able to contribute to the Knick's two Championships. His road to glory had begun.
After retiring, Phil went on to coach in the CBA (Continental Basketball Association), where he won a CBA title, and the Coach of the Year award. After coaching in the CBA, Jackson got an opportunity to an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls.
When Phil was eventually made the Bulls' head coach in 1989, Drastic changes were suddenly made. The focus concentrated on the defense, and the results were instantly apparent. Jackson also implemented the Triangle Offense, a system that would drop Michael Jordan's points per game from 35.0 to 31.5, but would prove to make an unstoppable team.
Michael Jordan's ferocious game-play, combined with Jackson's calm coaching ability, brought the Bulls NBA Championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993. A Three-Peat.
Afterwords, the world was left speechless as Michael Jordan retired, leaving Phil without the game's best player. Phil regrouped the team, and the following year, brought the Bulls to the semi-finals.
The next year, Jordan rejoined the Bulls right before the playoffs, where they once again were knocked out in the semi-finals. Afterwards, Phil had a word with Jordan, and they both agreed on returning the following season.
In the 1995-1996 season, Jackson got a hold of Dennis Rodman and did the impossible. He put a leash on him. Something that no one was ever able to do. Jackson funneled Rodman's energy into a rebounding machine. Jackson and Jordan then united together to produce a 72-10 record, the best in NBA History. Rodman also managed to take home the Rebounding Title. The Bulls then cruised to the finals where they beat Seattle in 6, making their final record 87-13, the best record of all time.
The next two years, The Bulls faced a tough Utah Jazz team that had one of the best teams in the history of basketball, with their Stockton to Malone combo, they seemed as though they were unbeatable. However, The Zen-Master coached Jordan to perfection (even when Jordan was ill) allowing the Bulls to beat the Jazz both years, and take their second Three-Peat.
After the titles, Jordan left the game in his prime, Pippen went to Houston, and Phil Jackson retired from coaching. At this point, it appeared that Phil's Era was at an end.
Phil became the Alpha-Dog of the Los Angeles Lakers: A young, talented team that had not yet been able to translate their potential into championships. Jackson, of course implemented his effective Defensive and Offensive schemes and worked Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'neal perfectly into his system.
The result? Kobe and Shaq were lead by Phil into the best seasons of their careers ending up with Three NBA Championship Rings (something that had eluded Kobe and Shaq their entire previous careers). Phil came away with yet another Three-Peat, making it his third.
After Kobe's rape trial, frequent team feuds, Bryant calling Phil's offense "Boring", and the Lakers getting ripped apart 4-1 in the Finals by the Pistons (Thanks to Kobe refusing to listen to Phil Jackson and abandoning the "Boring" Triangle Offense), the Zen-Master announced his retirement.
The following season, without Phil, the Lakers went 34-48, and didn't make the playoffs. Coincidence? I think not. Enough said.
In 2005, The Lakers welcomed the Return Of The King (Jackson, not LeBron), who, with a more mature and coachable Kobe Bryant, once again implemented the Triangle Offense;His bread and butter.
During the 2007-2008 Season, the Lakers received Pau Gasol from Memphis. It took a while for Gasol to get the hang of things, but the following year, the Lakers dominated the Magic in 5 games, coming away with the Championship.
This past season, Jackson became the Winningest Coach in Lakers' History as the Lakers topped the Celtics in the finals, making it a total of 11 Championships for the Zen-Master.
So, with all of that being said, the main argument between Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach is that Red won eight Championships in a row. The most consecutive Championships in NBA History...by a long shot. Red's total was nine rings.
However, with his 11 rings, Phil Jackson stands alone. No one has passed him up, and there is a good chance no one ever will. Jackson has never had a losing record. He has never lost a playoff series where his team has one Game-1. Jackson holds the best playoff win percentage of all time. He has the most Championships in NBA History as a player and head coach, with 13, topping Bill Russell with his 11.
Phil's reign has been epic. It's been nothing short of majestic....
And it still continues.
On July 1st of this year, despite health issues, the Zen-Master announced that he would return to coach the Lakers for the upcoming season.
And what is so significant about Jackson returning?
Simply this: If Phil wins the NBA Championship next year, it will be his Fourth Three-Peat! And giving the distractions that took place in between all of his Three-Peats thus far, they are far more impressive than Auerbach's Eight-Peat in a less-developed and less-talented NBA Era. Period. Case closed.
Phil's legend is set in stone, and yet he still hasn't ceased to amaze. People have started to ask if Phil can handle the newly constructed Heat team, but look at the Utah Jazz team he outplayed, look at the Celtics' team he outsmarted, look at everything he has done. He can do anything.
I am excited for the upcoming season. We all should be. Phil Jackson fan or not, It's time to be honest with ourselves, you can't help but respect the guy.
Love him, or hate him, Phil Jackson is the Greatest Coach of All-Time.
Phil Jackson is: The Lord Of The Rings
Stay Tuned as the Reign continues.