Published on May 16th, 2013 | by msalt


Phil Jackson and the hunger for basketball

Interesting profile of Phil Jackson as he nears 70 in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. It name-checks Lao Tzu along with Jerry Garcia, Eckhart Tolle, Stephen Covey, and the obscure 1950s “Horst Pinholster Pinwheel Offense,” leaning a bit heavily on East Coast stereotypes of West Coast new age oddballs using cherry-picked details (expensive healthy vegetables, Lakota Warrior training, Tibetan style house, his chiropractor). Never mind that a long career as a gritty, hard-nosed basketball player might give someone a solid reason for chiropractic adjustment. Jackson just published his latest book, “Eleven Rings” whose title modestly doesn’t count the two championships he won as a player rather than as coach.

The meat of the profile though is the fundamental paradox of Phil Jackson — a ‘retired’ basketball legend obsessed with basketball and angling for a new job, the zen mystic who was a blue collar tough guy player, the master with a matching ego who preaches egolessness, who seeks to accept the world as it is and has tons of strong notions for how to improve it.

The article suggests that Jackson is fundamentally restless and implicitly not solid. I think the truth is the opposite. Phil Jackson knows that these paradoxes are real and true, and is not uncomfortable with them the way the author of this piece is. Life’s deepest and most interest niches are found in the paradoxes.

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About the Author

Mark Saltveit is a writer, standup comedian, skimboarder and dad based in Middlebury, Vermont. His improv show "Palindrome Fight!" will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Aug. 5-29th 2022 at the Kilderkin Pub, 67 Canongate, at 7:30pm each night except Tuesdays.

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