It takes relentless drive combined with unwavering poise to master the NBA. Luckily, Phil Jackson has both — and it’s no surprise that he actively conquered the championships throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Here, we take a look back into the history of Jackson, his influence on the game, and how he inspired the Air Jordan 4 ‘Zen Master’.
To talk about Phil Jackson is to talk about winning — Jackson won 200 games faster than any other coach to date during his time at the Chicago Bulls. His offensive play style and insight into the opposition were pivotal to the Bulls NBA championship wins from 1991 to 1993, and again from 1996 to 1998, securing an unprecedented double ‘three-peat’ and confirming his icon status in the game.
Jackson’s winning ways continued when he relocated to the LA Lakers in 1999. Blessed with a pair of basketballing superstars — behemoth centre Shaquille O’Neal and wunderkind Kobe Bryant — Jackson guided the team to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. But, it isn’t just his extensive resume or impressive track record that secured his place in the history books, it was his refreshing coaching style, too.
It is often said that coaches are both the manifestation and product of their experiences, and Jackson is testament to this. From his strict Christian upbringing to his interest in Buddhist philosophy and native Indian culture, Jackson brought his philosophical and holistic techniques to the game — something that hadn’t been seen before. Although considered unusual and often unorthodox at the time, the ‘Zen Master’ encouraged his players to meditate and practise yoga before any match. He even inspired Michael Jordan, one of basketball’s biggest personalities, to channel his energy through Buddhism, gifting him the same book that kick-started his own spiritual journey.
Jackson was also famed for his unique man-management and his ability to put an arm around the shoulder of some of the sport’s most colossal names. He won the hearts and respect of his players by taking the time to know each and every one of them, while simultaneously maintaining overall control and direction. Jackson believes strongly in the cultivation of community and a greater sense of oneness, which explains how he was able to handle the bigger characters within the team — Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan to name a few. This combined with humility, focus and a strategic mindset brought a balanced approach to his pioneering coaching style and set him apart from the competition.
After a decorated career and an extensive collection of championship trophies, Jackon retired in 2011. However, his legacy lives on through Nike’s Air Jordan 4 ‘Zen Master’, a tribute to his success and philosophy. Carrying a rich history within its classic silhouette, this sneaker showcases a swirling mix of pink, purple and blue on the upper — a tie dye-like effect that nods to Jackson’s ‘Zen Master’ persona. Many sporting figures are remembered for their achievements, but very few are immortalised in such a way. With the Air Jordan 4 ‘Zen Master’, Nike has ensured Phil Jackson is celebrated off the court as well as on.