#RespectYourElders: Phil Jackson, 74, is a former professional basketball player, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, and executive in the National Basketball Association.
Jackson was born in 1945 in Montana. He grew up in the state but went to high school in North Dakota. Both of Jackson’s parents were Pentecostal ministers and imposed strict guidelines on his life. He used basketball as an outlet for self-expression, which led him to join the University of North Dakota’s basketball team. His senior year, he averaged 27.4 points per game and was named an All-American.
In 1967, the New York Knicks drafted Jackson as a power forward. Considered by many to be a long-haired free-spirit, Jackson rode a bicycle to home games at the Madison Square Garden and practiced Zen Buddhism. He was a key asset to their team and helped them with the 1972-1973 NBA championship. Jackson spent a few more years with the Knicks before joining the New Jersey Nets. He retired from playing in 1980.
Not long after retirement, Jackson began coaching in Puerto Rico’s National Superior Basketball (BSN). He then coached the Albany Patroons in New York and won the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) championship. By then, the Bulls had their eyes on him and Jackson was hired as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls. Before the 1989-1990 season, Jackson replaced Doug Collins as the head coach.
Jackson implemented the Triangle Offense and found immediate success with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest of the potent Bulls team. The Bulls had a great first year with Jackson as the head coach and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they battled the physically dominant Detroit Pistons. They lost in game seven.
The Bulls and Jackson came back better than ever by winning NBA championship titles the next three seasons. They were the first team to ever win a three-peat championship. Following this, Michael Jordan temporarily retired from basketball for a year and a half to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox’s minor league team. He returned in 1995, but Jordan, Jackson and the rest of the Bulls lost in the playoffs that year. They went on to win another three-peat of championships in 1996-1998 with the help of players like Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman.
Jackson stepped down as the head coach for the Bulls in 1998 after feuding with upper management. He took a year off of coaching before becoming the head coach for the Lakers. He coached them from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2011. They won five titles under his leadership with talented players including Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
In 2011, Jackson was hired as the New York Knicks’ president. He spent three years in their front office before parting ways with the struggling team.
Jackson was recently featured in “The Last Dance,” a documentary about the legacy of Michael Jordan. You can stream it on Netflix.