NEW YORK TIMES
The Los Angeles Lakers won their first N.B.A. championship under Phil Jackson on this date, defeating the Indiana Pacers, 116‚111, in Game 6 of the finals at the Staples Center. It was the seventh title in nine seasons for Jackson, the former Bulls coach, who folded his arms in serene contentment as the Lakers came from behind to win. The following column appeared in The Times on June 7, the day the series began.
LOS ANGELES-Greetings, fans, from sunny Southern California, center of the basketball universe, now that I, Phil Jackson, am on the verge of winning a ring without Michael Jordan. I admit I am not the same earthy fellow I was 15 years ago, when I coached in the basketball bushes and talked about organic experiences and went out for late-night fish ‘n’ chips at roadside shacks in Pensacola. Am I a sellout just because I wear suspenders under my suit jacket and do online trading spots on television for P.D. Waterhouse? Times change. Garcia’s gone. Consider me part new-age psychologist, part 60’s guru, some kind of spiritual cross between Tony Robbins and Leonard Nimoy.
Just look at the results and listen to the music. Shaq, the heretofore playoff flop and Gen X cynic, will soon be rappin’ from the top of the mountain, and from that lofty perch will clearly see that he’s only scratched the surface of his potential. Give me two more years with him- the Daddy will be wearing the world’s longest bell bottoms and groovin’ to the Strawberry Alarm Clock.
People (read: Pat Riley) may ask, “Who wouldn’t win with Shaq and Kobe?” But here are two more questions that are not exactly a koan. Who to this point has won with Shaq and Kobe? And what other coach has had championship success with veterans weaned on 1980’s values and the contemporary stars of the hip hop culture? By the time this is over, even ol’ Riles will have emerged from his annual brooding season and just admit that I am a genius because, as Artur Schnabel said, “The pauses between the notes-ah, that is where the art resides.”
Take it from me, he wasn’t talking about Shaq at the free-throw line. Or Glen Rice trying to beat his man off the dribble, Ron Harper shooting the 3-pointer or A.C. Green shooting anything but a dunk. Let’s face it, other than the two marquee attractions, I haven’t exactly been working here with the cast of the “Sopranos.” Basketball, however, can be such a simple game when you are not one of those impossible control freaks, when you can sit back, cross your legs, caress your whiskers and apply the ancient Zen teachings.
I believe that the Pacers are dead fish. Five or six games, and it’s a wrap.