Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal owe a part of their success to coach Phil Jackson. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls won two three-peats under Jackson’s tutelage. When Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers to their first three-peat, it was Jackson’s magic at the heart of the Los Angeles Lakers. The core philosophy behind the American coach’s success was the triangle offense, which arguably changed the game.
Shaquille O’Neal shot to superstardom during the Lakers’ three-peat campaign. While recollecting how he employed the triangle offense on the LA side, Phil Jackson expressed how two Lakers stars proved vital to the successes of both the triangle offense and Shaquille O’Neal.
Phil Jackson says two LA stars were crucial in Shaquille O’Neal’s success
Although Phil Jackson’s triangle offense gave way to phenomenal success for the Bulls, it was not a simple task for him to implement it. The glaring obstacle for Jackson was convincing Michael Jordan to buy into the offensive strategy. Until Jackson stepped in, Jordan led the Bulls’ offense single-handedly. The coach’s game plan and the triangle offense, however, ensured the participation of Jordan’s teammates in the offense, instead of Jordan doing the job alone. It proved to be a difficult task for the 4-time All-Star head coach to make an iconic scorer like MJ adhere to new gameplay.
In his recent appearance on Stacey King’s Gimme The Hot Sauce Podcast, Phil Jackson spoke about coaching the Bulls and the Lakers. The hosts asked him if it was difficult for him to implement the triangle offense in LA, given the difficulties he had gone through in Chicago. In response, Jackson stated that the task was not as difficult with the Lakers because he had brought Ronnie Harper with him from Chicago. “He[Harper] started with Kobe as a guard and he facilitated the offense,” Jackson said. The former coach then delved deeper into his thought behind the strategy.
“Kobe is a bright basketball player. He liked playing that role. He eventually moved down to the Michael Jordan wing spot where he did the bulk of his scoring later on in his career. In the early first three-peat championship we won in LA, he was the guard along with either Derek Fisher or Ronnie Harper. The aspect of having Shaq as the pivot point or the central point in the Triangle offense, was right up the alley because that was his MVP year and he averaged the most points he ever averaged, so he was the focal point,” Phil Jackson added.
Shaquille O’Neal learned it the hard way
It is not just Phil Jackson’s triangle offense that helped Shaquille O’Neal excel. Jackson is renowned for his holistic approach to coaching that is not restricted to on-the-court activities. The big man once had to carry a log to Phil Jackson’s house after instructions from the coach. The incident occurred after the Lakers signed O’Neal for a $120 million contract. Shaq, however, did not shy away from doing the chore to earn his coach’s respect.
In order to get Shaq’s complete focus on the game, Phil Jackson also asked him to stop rapping and going to parties. The seven-foot giant adhered to the coach’s instructions on and off the court and phenomenal success came Shaq’s way. Apart from Phil Jackson’s strict coaching, Shaq had other motivations too, with one involving NBA icon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.