By Dave Wischnowsky–
CHICAGO (CBS) When he belonged to Chicago, he had a thick and dark(ish) head of hair, a mustache worthy of Magnum P.I., and a championship swagger that befit the six-ring circus he ran on the city’s West Side.
These days, having belonged to L.A., the hair is thinning and white(ish), the mustache – having evolved a beard and a Fu Manchu – is completely gone, and that championship swagger was last seen on Sunday night limping off into the Dallas sunset.
Although, it still had a pretty pompous smirk.
(I suppose five additional rings will do that to a guy.)
Yes, it’s been a long time since Phil Jackson was a resident of the Windy City – 13 years, to be precise. But now that his legendary coaching career is (apparently) at its end, I’ve been left wondering if Chicagoans will truly remember the Lakers’ coach as a Chicago Bull.
Or has the Zen Master just gone too Hollywood for that?
“It’s been a wonderful run,” Jackson said on Sunday after the Mavericks had officially swept his Lakers out the playoff door.
And considering it’s featured 1,155 victories, 11 NBA titles and three of the top 10 or 12 players of all time, the run most certainly has been a wonder.
But which city can claim to be a bigger part of Jackson’s legacy?
In one of the curiosities of basketball, Phil Jackson actually has been a member of into the Naismith Hall of Fame back since 2007 – four years before he’s (supposedly) retired. And while basketball’s version of Cooperstown doesn’t slap team caps on its inductees, if it had, the debate over which Jackson would have worn would have put last year’s Expos vs. Cubs argument about Andre Dawson to shame.
As head coach of the Bulls for nine seasons, Jackson won 545 regular-season games and six NBA championships, forever branding himself with Michael Jordan. And as head coach of the Lakers for 11 seasons, he won 610 regular-season games and five titles, forever branding himself with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Last June’s, Ron Harper – who won three championships in Chicago with Jackson as his coach, and then two more with him in L.A – was asked by the Chicago Tribune about Jackson’s basketball identity.
“He’s always going to be a Bull,” Harper said. “No matter who else we played for, I’m a Bull, MJ’s a Bull, Phil’s a Bull.
“What we did as a team is going to be hard to ever duplicate. We had guys who truly loved to play the game and loved to be teammates. Phil has done a great job in L.A. and when we won there, it was fun. But deep in our hearts, we’ll always be Bulls.”
On the other hand, Andrew Siciliano, the host of the popular “LA Sports Live” midday show on the Lakers’ flagship radio station KSPN-AM 710, said this about Jackson last June:
“He’s a Bull, but when all is said and done he likely will be known as a Laker.”
Ron Artest, meanwhile, summed things up by saying, “I think he’ll be remembered for both. He has done great things in both places. Great, great things.”
I won’t argue with Artest on that, but here’s my take on this debate: Jackson will, of course, always be remembered for coaching the Bulls to six championships. But those teams weren’t truly his. They were Jordan’s.
In L.A., however, things have felt different. Thanks largely to his championship pedigree, Jackson has cast a longer shadow in SoCal. And as a result, the Lakers teams have been his at least as much – and I’d argue even more so – as they were Kobe’s or Shaq’s.
So, my feeling is that, while it’s a close race, L.A. can probably stake a claim to Phil a little more strongly these days than Chicago can. But that’s all right, we’ll still take MJ, the six rings – and a 2011 Bulls team that’s still alive in the playoffs tonight.
This year’s Lakers, meanwhile, have had their Phil.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.