Monday, October 24, 2011

Book review: Sacred Hoops, by Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson is one of the greatest and the most respected coaches in the modern era. Jackson is famous for being the man who moulded the Chicago Bulls from being almost solely reliant upon Michael Jordan, into a NBA championship force as a team (with a lot of help from Jordan as well). Following from this he was able to control the egos of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal as he coached the Los Angeles Lakers to championships as well.

Cover Image Courtesy of
Jackson is also described as being not your a-typical personality of professional sports and someone a little 'left of centre'. Although this may be true one must recognise the following: 1) That in the egotistical world of professional sport it is hardly difficult to be considered different; and 2) having read this book I wonder how much of the perception of Jackson is objective and not down to his own self prophecy.

Sacred Hoops purports to be a description of the spiritual journey that Phil Jackson has gone on during his life and career in basketball and also the spiritual journey he sought to lead the unstoppable Chicago Bulls on as they won six championships in the 1990's. At best it is a philosophical reflection as rarely could it be said that Jackson describes his research or reflection as looking beyond his self for the divine.

In reality as I read through the book it felt more like a cobbled together series of quotes from Christianity, Buddhism, and Native American tribal culture that speak to the events in Jacksons career with the benefit of hindsight. This probably is not a 100% true statement, Jackson no doubt is widely read and has been for a great proportion of his life, but it appears too cute in places during this read that these single quotations from religious texts can speak wholly to the scenarios described by Jackson without reference to the greater contexts of the religious texts themselves. One could even go as far to say that it is disrespectful to practitioners of each of these religions that Jackson seemingly cherry picks bits and pieces that suit him and his story.

For those of us who grew up through the 1990's and loved Basketball and the Chicago Bulls for a period will get some satisfaction from reading back through the history of these great seasons where basketball glory rained heavily on the Windy City. Jackson does provide an honest insiders view of what he believed made the Chicago Bulls tick during this period and what helped them to be one of the most successful teams in history.

But it is not a great read. Particularly so if you reflect back (with greater hindsight) that if Jackson truly led this team (and its individuals) on a spiritual journey to betterment should they have obtained some more permanent value? Why is it then that most have seemed to continues living as ego-maniacs post their playing days?  One star.

By Ben Roberts

1 comment:

  1. For anyone reading this review, I can only suggest reading the book for yourself and making your own mind up. I couldn't disagree any more strongly with this review.

    The book, in my view, is about Phil Jackson and his development as a coach and more wholly as a person. Yes it's about his spiritual journey but not exclusively about that. He uses the quotes to acknowledge the wisdom which existed prior to his existence and not to claim to be the inventor of this wisdom. It describes his journey about the gaining of said wisdom. What this reviewer has missed is that the quoted texts have no meaning for Jackson (and many of us) until we connect with them spiritually with our own experiences.

    The book is about Jackson's journey, not what happened to the athletes he coached post playing days. Jackson was employed to win Championships. Clearly he overachieved. And he did this with getting the athletes to buy into his philosophy of "losing some of the me, for the betterment of the we".

    It's a great read with an opportunity to learn about yourself if you can self-reflect with honesty and do so with an open mind. I read it many years ago and has significantly contributed to my coaching practice and in life.