Posted on August 27, 2020
While watching The Last Dance, it was easy to see that the most interesting character from The 1990’s Bulls team was Phil Jackson. How did he keep all of these superstars in check and working together as a team? In Hoop Dreams, which was written after the 1st 3-peat and before the 2nd, Phil describes some of his philosophies on coaching and on life.
“Creating a successful team… is essentially a spiritual act. It requires the individuals involved to surrender their self-interest for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.”
Phil’s philosophies were basically a conglomeration of 5 sources –
Phil takes pieces from each of those sources and talks a lot about team over individual, selflessness, clearing your mind and “not thinking”. He also describes how hard that is to do in a “society that places such a high premium on individual achievement” especially in the NBA which has a skewed financial reward system. “Few players comes to the NBA dreaming of becoming good team players.”
Here are a few quotes and pieces from the book I found interesting:
I also liked this Chinese fable that John Paxson brought to Phil once and told him he thought it represented his leadership style…
“The story was about Emporor Liu Bang, who, in the third century BC, became the first ruler to consolidate China into a unified empire. To celebrate his victory, Liu Bang held a great banquet in the palace, inviting many important government officials, miltiary leaders, poets, and teachers, including Chen Cen, a master who had given him guidance during the campaign. Chen Cen’s disciples who accompanied him to the banquet were impressed by the proceeding were baffled by an enigma at the heart of the celebration.
Seated at the central table with Liu Bang was his illustrious high command. First there was Xiao He, an eminent general whose knowledge of military logistics was second to none. Next to him was Han Xin, a legendary tactician who’d won every battle he’d ever fought. Last was Chang Yang, a shrewd diplomat who was gifted at convincing heads of state to form alliances and surrender without fighting. These men the disciples could understand. What puzzled them was how Liu Bang, who didn’t have a noble birth or knowledge comparable to that of his chief advisers fit into the picture. “Why is he the emperor?” they asked.
Chen Cen smiled and asked them what determines the strength of a wheel. “Is it not the sturdiness of the spokes?” one responded. “Then why is it that two wheels made of identical spokes differ in strength?” asked Chen Cen. After a moment, he continued, “See beyond what is seen. Never forget that a wheel is made not only of spokes but also of the space between the spokes. Sturdy spokes poorly placed make a weak wheel. Whether their full potential is realized depends on the harmony between. The essence of wheelmaking lies in the craftsman’s ability to conceive and create the space that holds and balances the spokes within the wheel. Think now, who is the craftsman here?”