Phil Jackson: Stranger Than Fiction

The budding rivalry between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant reached potentially disastrous heights multiple times during the Lakers three-peat run, but Jackson was always able to successfully mediate the situation. Just as he had done in Chicago, Jackson kept the Lakers on track through his psychological prowess.

May 18, 2010 - Los Angeles, United States - (100518) -- LOS ANGELES, May 18, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Los Angeles Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson (R) yells at a referee during the first game of the NBA Western Conference final playoff series against Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles, the United States, on May 17, 2010. Phoenix Suns lost the match 107-128. (Xinhua/Qi Heng.

He never caved to players demands or media pressure, but never was outwardly harsh either. Players began to understand that a Phil Jackson comment to the media was not a personal attack, but a motivational tool. Phil Jackson was succeeding in a dangerous game that had cost many a coach their job before him. The ultimate chemist had once again found the perfect blend for success. We have seen history repeat itself numerous times with Phil Jackson. In the summer of 2004 it repeated itself again, this time in an ugly way. Just as it had ended in Chicago, Jackson’s tenure in Los Angeles ended abruptly and explosively. Jackson was the first piece of a restructuring effort made by the Los Angeles front office. With Jackson gone, so was the chemistry. Shaquille O’Neal, the catalyst for the three championships earlier that decade, was traded shortly thereafter. Other staple veterans also exited, leaving the team a shell of its former self. Once again Jackson faded into the mist. Other than the release of a controversial book, The Last Season, that described in great detail the crumbling of the Lakers dynasty, Jackson was again out of the public spotlight. Without Jackson leading the way, the team sputtered. In order to maximize their remaining years with superstar Kobe Bryant, they needed a coach who could handle his explosive personality and sometimes off-putting behavior. Less than a year after he had announced his departure from the team, Jackson was back. While the team continued to struggle his first two years back on the bench, a precedent had been set. While they weren’t necessarily the best of friends, Jackson and Bryant had developed a level of mutual respect that would allow them to reach that sporting pinnacle once again. Next: Stranger Than Fiction

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