Monday, June 15, 2009

Phil Jackson and Greatness

"We don't have to confine the praise today for Phil Jackson to just basketball either. No manager ever won 10 World Series. No coach ever won 10 NFL championships. And it isn't just an issue of longevity; Jackson has won 10 of the last 19 NBA championships, and didn't even coach in two of those seasons." -- Michael Wilbon, The Washington Post

Professional sports gave me the foundation for pretty much everything I know, so I'll always be grateful for them. My love for sports as a kid taught me things like math, statistics, probability, and strategy. My habit of listening to sports radio after school and on the weekends taught me about logic, critical reasoning, argument, and big words, even though I had no idea at the time.

Now, as I've written about in these *pages* before, it's not really the same. I still follow the NBA and NFL, mostly passively, but have a pathetically small knowledge level of the NHL and MLB. (And by pathetic, I mean I couldn't name a single player on most of the teams in those leagues). What hasn't changed, though, is a deep appreciation for sporting accomplishments.

And here's a truly phenomenal one: Phil Jackson winning 10 of the last 19 NBA championships. I don't care how great Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, or any other Bull ever was back in the late 1980s and early- to mid-1990s. I don't care how great Shaq was with the early 2000s Lakers, or how great Kobe was, or still is.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I put a high premium on actions and accomplishments. That's not just as a words v. actions thing, it's also an 'actions' just in an of themselves thing. I don't care whether you're Rudy Giuliani helping oversee the greatest crime reduction in major U.S. city history, whether you're Tiger Woods winning your umph-teenth major golf championship, or whether you're General Petraeus overseeing one of the swiftest counterinsurgency turnarounds in history.

People will never run out of contributing factors to any of the above that, no doubt, help explain how the doer was able to accomplish what he did. Some of those contributing factors may be valid, but that doesn't take away from the significance of the achievement. All three of the individuals named in the above paragraph have been described a time or two as 'arrogant,' but I think that's an unfair characterization, as the results speak to their greatness.

I'm not a huge fan of *total* statistics. Total games won, home runs hit, or victories coached are all great, but sometimes they have more to say about longevity than they do much else, as Michael Wilbon's quote at the top here reminds us.

I won't get too wrapped up in who played for Phil Jackson, who his assistant coaches were, or which front offices helped bring him franchise-quality players.

10 out of the last 19 NBA Championships is just awesome, period.

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