During the last year, we’ve seen a lot of debate on who is the greatest National Basketball Association (NBA) player of all time. Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry were both mentioned as the top two players of all time, and then there’s LeBron James, who is constantly mentioned as the best player in the league today. And then there’s Phil Jackson.
As the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, you’d think Jordan would be the league’s GOAT—but apparently not. That honor apparently belongs to Bulls point guard Phil Jackson , who didn’t have the best record of his own coaching. Jackson’s Bulls won only two NBA championships during his tenure with Chicago, while Jordan’s Bulls won six world titles during his legendary run.
The NBA can be a cutthroat place. Witness the trade that sent the greatest Chicago Bulls player ever, Phil Jackson, to the Knicks for a bag of marbles. It pains me to say this, but Jordan is clearly not the greatest player ever. I’m sure the official record books say otherwise, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about who was the best player to play the game. And I’m voting for Jordan. What do you say?
Michael Jordan was the greatest player for the Chicago Bulls during their two three-peats in the 1990s, according to everyone. With the exception of Dennis Rodman, maybe everyone.
Rodman is probably aware that Jordan is perhaps the greatest player in NBA history and was, in fact, the best player on those Chicago teams. However, he reportedly said that he, not MJ, was the greatest basketball player he had coached, according to former Bulls coach Phil Jackson.
On the Bulls, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson enjoyed a close friendship.
Dennis Rodman didn’t join the Bulls until 1995, when he was acquired in exchange for Will Perdue.
And his time in Chicago didn’t get off to the greatest start.
Rodman and Phil Jackson had a tense first meeting, as they recounted in The Last Dance.
According to NBC Sports, Jackson stated in the docuseries, “He’s got the rings in his nose and mouth, and he doesn’t get up to welcome me.” “I told Dennis to get up, take off his hat, and shake hands. Let’s take a walk outdoors and chat.’
Rodman, on the other hand, was a key component of the Bulls’ second three-peat, which lasted from 1995-96 through 1997-98. And he and the coach became fast friends.
According to NBC Sports, Jackson stated, “Dennis and I had this Native American connection between us.” “I had a bear claw necklace, a turtle shell from another reserve, and many other Indian items in the team room.”
Dennis is like, ‘Wow, I have this necklace from the Ponca Indians in Oklahoma,’ he said. That’s something I’m aware of.’ ‘Well, Dennis, in their tradition, and in the tradition that I knew, you’d be a heyoka – a person who walks backwards.’ They were individuals who were out of the ordinary, and they were heyokas. So, in this tribe, you’re the heyoka.’
Rodman went on to say how important the 11-time NBA champion head coach was to him.
According to NBC Sports, Rodman said, “Phil understood that I was different, dude.” “Phil was so familiar with me because he understood I wanted to clear my mind. That’s what made playing with that group so enjoyable.”
But Jackson’s admiration for Rodman was probably stronger than any of us knew.
Dennis Rodman is said to be Phil Jackson’s “greatest player he’s ever coached.”
Rodman recently spoke on the Full Send Podcast, and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year said something intriguing regarding Jackson, according to ESPN’s First Take.
On the September 1 broadcast, he stated, “Phil called me the greatest player he’s ever taught.”
It’s unknown when Jackson told Rodman that. Did he say that while still coaching Jordan on the Bulls, but before he coached Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal? Did he say this during his time with the Lakers? Is it possible that Jackson said it later?
That’s uncertain, but we can say with certainty that, although Rodman gave his all and was probably the greatest defensive player of all time, he wasn’t the finest player Jackson ever coached.
The greatest players Phil ever coached were Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Scottie Pippen.
In 1997, the Chicago Bulls’ Dennis Rodman (from left), Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper, and Phil Jackson held five Larry O’Brien trophies. | Getty Images/AFP/Jeff Haynes
Dennis Rodman is definitely deserving of his admiration. After winning five championships, leading the league in rebounding seven times, and earning All-Defensive team accolades eight times, the former Bulls great was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He also won Defensive Player of the Year twice and was named to two All-Star teams, as previously stated.
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and even Scottie Pippen, who were coached under Jackson, were superior players.
Jordan and Bryant were two of the NBA’s most deadly scorers, capable of dominating any player in the league at any time. They are both among the top five scorers in league history, with a combined total of 32 All-Star berths.
On the other side, O’Neal was one of the most dominating forces in NBA history. He’d dominate defenders in the paint and utilize his intimidating presence to score easy baskets while also instilling terror in any offensive player who tried to take the ball to the hoop. He was also a 15-time All-Star and a top-ten scorer in the NBA.
Finally, from 1990-91 and 1997-98, Pippen averaged 20.0 points per game for the Bulls, indicating that he could score anytime he needed to. He was a terrific defender as well, garnering 10 All-Defensive team honors and leading the league in steals once. He may have been one of the NBA’s greatest two-way players.
Rodman could defend and rebound with the best of them, but his career average of 7.3 points per game prevents him from being considered the greatest player Jackson has ever coached.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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