As the NBA playoff rounds continue, today’s post is a bit of Shaq-history dating all the way back to the previous century! Join us now for a trip back in time…
It was 1999, and the Los Angeles Lakers were making moves for the future. The team had already put together the duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Of course this was at the start of the dynasty, so it was not at all clear how things would work out.
With those two pieces in place, the Lakers were looking for a new head coach to lead. Former Lakers and Phoenix Suns player Kurt Rambis had been coaching the team, but it was probably never meant to be a long-term hire.
Then Phil Jackson parted ways with the Chicago Bulls, after the Bulls had that long run of success with MJ, Scottie Pippen, and of course Dennis Rodman.
Jackson left Chicago after taking the Bulls to the team’s sixth NBA Championship. A guy like that, with a resume like that, didn’t take long to find his new coaching home. Coming from the Bulls, with the awesome roster that team possessed, the Lakers, with their budding superstars, seemed like a good fit. History shows it indeed was a really, really good fit.
At the time, the Lakers roster featured the likes of Shaq and Kobe, along with Ron Harper, Glen Rice, and Robert Horry. Was that a team that could match up to the glories of Jackson’s Bulls? Time would tell.
Still, in sports writer Jeff Pearlman’s book “Three Ring Circus,” Dennis Rodman didn’t think the team would amount to much… he told Pearlman he thought the Lakers would eventually have to give him a call for help.
In the book and in subsequent interviews, Rodman said he was happy to see his former coach secure the great gig with the Lakers. But even with Jackson at the helm, he didn’t think the team had a strong enough roster to win a championship. Rodman’s answer: Sign him!
It wasn’t a crazy idea. Rodman had played for the Lakers – in a total of 23 games – a season earlier. Being close to Jackson, the way he was, he expected a phone call. But for Rodman, the phone never rang.
In the book, Pearlman said, “At his home in Newport Beach, Dennis Rodman a thrice champion with the Bulls under Jackson was convinced his phone would be ringing any day now. ‘They ain’t gonna win with what they’ve got, I’ll tell you that,’ he told a reporter. ‘I know what’s going to happen. They’ll wait until the last minute, and then they’ll call me.’”
Unfortunately for the man known as “The Worm,” his prediction never came true, and the Lakers did just fine without him. Under Jackson’s guidance, Los Angeles became only the second team in NBA history to complete a three-peat. The Zen Master worked his magic again.
Jackson would go on to spend a total of 12 years as the Lakers’ head coach, winning multiple NBA Championships. If even there was a coaching legend to rank with the Association’s greatest players, this is the guy.