Phil Jackson was a central figure in episode four of ‘The Last Dance’ that aired Sunday night on ESPN. The “Zen Master” might be known for his impressive coaching ability and accolades, but his accomplishments don’t just begin behind the whiteboard.
Rewinding the clock back to the very beginning of Jackson’s basketball career, Phil attended high school in Williston, North Dakota, where he played varsity basketball and led the team to a state title. He then was recruited to play at the University of North Dakota (UND) from 1964 to 1967. He earned All-American honors in each of his three seasons at UND and was twice named North Central Conference Most Valuable Player in 1966 and 1967. Throughout his college career, he averaged 19.9 points per game and had a school-record of 12.9 rebounds in 86 collegiate career games. He also penciled in a UND scoring record of 27.4 points per game during the 1966-67 season and ranked fifth on UND’s all-time scoring list with 1,708 points and third all-time in rebounds at 1,109.
Transitioning to the NBA, Jackson was drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1967 NBA Draft with other notable players like Walt Frazer, and Pat Riley. Jackson would be named in the 1968 NBA All-Rookie team, and help the Knicks win two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973, which are still the franchise’s only championships in its history. Jackson played 12 years in the NBA and retired as a player in 1980.
Jackson had a nifty little career before he picked up his first coaching gig. But as we all know, he would then go on to win 11 NBA titles as a coach (6 for the Chicago Bulls and 5 for the Los Angeles Lakers) and is the only coach to win ten championships or more in any of North America’s major sports.
Catch you Thursday.