Friday, December 12, 2014

Phil Jackson and the Wall

A lot of players and teams have been great in their own rights over the years, only to run into a wall they could never seem to overcome.

Dan Marino was one of the most prolific passing quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, but he never won a Super Bowl.

Same with Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. They made it there four times and lost them all.
Likewise for the Minnesota Vikings.

John Stockton remains the all-time assist leader in the NBA. His long-time Utah Jazz teammate Karl Malone is second in all-time scoring, behind only Abdul Jabbar. But they never won a championship.

The Detroit Lions are one of only four NFL teams to have never even REACHED the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The other three are expansion teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston) that didn't even exist while the Motowners floundered for decades. Over the years, the Lions have annually hit the wall like an Indy car that blows a tire in Turn 2. Pop, crash, outta here.

And the Chicago Cubs? They last won the World Series when a guy named Theodore Roosevelt was President. They've walked softly but didn't carry nearly big enough sticks for over a century. This is a serious wall. Maybe it has something to do with the ivy at Wrigley Field. Come to think of it -- when's the last time you saw a Wrigley's store?  Besides their doublemint and spearmint gum, are they even still around?

But with apologies to the late Martin Luther King, Phil Jackson has been to the mountaintop. As a player, he was a winner in high school. A winner in college. After doing his "apprenticeship", he became a huge winner as an NBA coach.

Six world championships while with the Chicago Bulls, including two 3-peats. There are those that think it might have been an octo-peat, 8 in a row, had Michael Jordan not decided to try his hand at professional baseball for a couple years. His Airness flamed out like the Hindenberg trying to hit breaking pitches. Not a pretty sight -- unless one was the opposing pitcher.

Then on to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would inherit another talent-laden roster. Five more NBA championships would come, for a total of 11, the most of all-time. To boot, besides making mega-bucks, he was shacked up with the owner's quite beautiful daughter. Gigs just don't get any sweeter than that.

It's like he was Confucius with the King Midas touch. Pretty impressive for a kid from Montana whose parents were ultra-religious, and likely expected Philip Douglas to follow in their footsteps to become a humble man of the cloth. No doubt, his offering plate has runneth over in the ensuing years.

Yet not long ago, Jackson took on another challenge. He signed on with the NY Knicks as President. A five year contract worth the same $12 million a year he had sought, but was unable to obtain from the Lakers. It was fun, fun, fun, but Daddy Buss had finally taken his Z(en)-Bird away.

This is good news and bad news for Jackson. First, $60 million guaranteed bucks is hardly chump change, the Pentagon aside. And second, his team isn't in last place in their division. That dubious honor is held by the Philadelphia 76ers who currently sport a league worst record of 2-19.

The bad news is -- Phil's Knicks aren't much better at 4-20. Only the cannon-fodder Detroit Pistons also have a worse record (barely) at 3-19. Even the woebegone Lakers, who consist of Kobe and a variety of potted plants, have 6 wins.

It would appear Phil Jackson has finally hit his wall. No amount of meditation and triangle offenses (whatever that ever meant) will rescue him from the mess he jumped into this time. This team is just plain bad, and are further strapped with some ridiculous player salaries that makes them unlikely able to improve their roster any time soon. That pesky salary cap is very much alive and well.

But hey, who wouldn't take a a job worth $60 million for five years -- even if one has NO shot at producing a championship contender over that time? And last time yours truly looked -- that former owner's daughter was still in tow as well. Then again, a recent heiress to a multi-billlion dollar fortune likely isn't exactly hard up when it comes to male suitors.

Phil is 69. Hmm. Something about that number rings a vague bell when it comes to satisfying a much younger woman. Connect your own dots.

But I still think he's hit his wall. Surely you've heard of the Peter Principle, whether it be in basketball or other rousing ventures. Ahem.

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