CHICAGO – Kobe Bryant for five championships played for Phil Jackson. In his seven seasons playing for coaches other than Jackson he got none.
Michael Jordan won six championships playing for Phil Jackson. In his eight seasons not playing for Jackson, Jordan won zero.
LeBron James is going for his third championship this season. James has made it pretty clear in comments this season his goal is to be considered the mythical greatest player in NBA history, the title now held by Michael Jordan.
What better chance to make a run for seven championships than playing for Phil Jackson?
Can Phil Jackson turn around the Knicks?
That would be a heck of a start.
Jackson is set to be announced as the new president of basketball operations for the Knicks at a news conference in New York City on Tuesday.
There’s been much commentary already that given the dysfunctional nature of the Knicks’ organization and the imperial ownership of James Dolan that Jackson, who never has been a team executive, cannot succeed.
I have no doubt Jackson will be a major success in New York, in part because the Knicks this season have way underperformed with poor coaching and a team out of control.
Jackson is never going to coach again. But with his innate ability to lead people and his sense of community that has been the crucial element with all his teams, he will put in place a coach and general manager with his blessing and support and his guiding hand.
You don’t have to be the team’s top executive to understand how to run a team.
Jackson is a natural in player evaluation for combining the right pieces to enable a team to function. He was the driving force behind two of the major personnel moves of the Bulls title seasons, the acquisition of Bill Cartwright in 1988 and Dennis Rodman in 1996. Both against the belief of many in the organization and the moves helped lead Chicago to three championships each time.
Jackson isn’t going to be a full- time resident of New York City and likely not carry out the typical duties of a top executive of college and minor league scouting. But if you needed a scientist and physicist would you want Albert Einstein for an hour a day or his assistant for 18 hours a day?
Phil Jackson is the most successful winner in the history of pro basketball.
You’re getting a modern day version of Red Auerbach.
Not that Jackson as chief executive will turn the Knicks into champions immediately.
He’ll end the chaos and presumably end the notion that Carmelo Anthony will leave as a free agent.
After all, who talks about winning and then leaves a team run by Phil Jackson?
Bryant and Magic Johnson last week made public appeals of Jackson to rejoin the Lakers.
Then the big move: LeBron.
James can opt out and become a free agent this summer. The Knicks do not have salary cap room this summer.
But in 2015 they’ll have perhaps more than anyone with Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler all with expiring contracts.
With Dwyane Wade’s health in decline, Miami does not seem a long-term solution for James. And James isn’t going to the Lakers to help Bryant get more titles?
If you want to be big, how much bigger can you be than winning in New York for a franchise that hasn’t won a title in more than 40 years?
You can imagine that parade. Talk about your canyon of heroes.
Do they even have ticker tape anymore?
You win in New York and your reputation and legacy is enhanced like it can be nowhere else.
James is still 29. Jordan won his sixth title at age 35. If James can get to seven titles, one more than Jordan, he legitimately can make the case of being the greatest ever.
Those close to James now say every move he makes, assuming he makes any, will be about how best he can win more championships.
No matter what occurs the Heat should be in contention again next season with James, Wade and Chris Bosh as the core. That’s where the LeBron imbroglio comes up. In 2015, the NBA is preparing for a big free agent summer.
Why not play it out one more season as probably still the favorite — any team that has James likely is these days — and then consider the options if you are LeBron.
Say Anthony signs his long term extension with the Knicks this summer. Then the contracts for Stoudemire, Bargnani and Chandler will expire. That would give the Knicks salary cap space for a maximum deal for someone like James and enough money for another free agent with further additions like, finally, a first-round draft pick and another exception.
Given that money and that luxury tax seems to remain of little concern in New York, the Knicks could begin to load up around LeBron and Anthony.
Who really would have a better pair?
The question for James is where he can go to play with another star given Wade’s decline.
It won’t be Bryant. LeBron’s not helping Kobe get more titles.
Kevin Durant is the big name, but he isn’t a free agent until 2016.
Doesn’t sound like a LeBron kind of town.
Minnesota and Kevin Love?
Been there, done that, and it’s a mess for now.
Anthony is as good as any, an elite scorer to match Durant, and especially as a second-option guy.
Imagine how big James would become winning in New York with all that media attention and making a run on Jordan’s legacy in New York?
Jordan scored 55 points in New York and it was practically a national holiday.
How about doing it every week?
It didn’t make as much sense in 2010 as James didn’t have a title and the Knicks couldn’t give him the talent the Heat could.
Now they can because Phil Jackson is completing his basketball life circle by coming back to where he started with the New York Knicks.
And championships always do seem to follow him.
Sam Smith covered the Chicago Bulls for 25 years with the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of the best-selling book “The Jordan Rules.”