After Phil Jackson’s recent episode of “The Last Dance”, we take a look back at his opinion that the Houston Rockets’ titles were “tainted.”
Legendary coach Phil Jackson has never been one to shy away from making his opinions known. While he’s full of tremendous basketball knowledge and intelligence, sometimes what he says can also come off bitter and frankly, quite irritating. Some of his comments from 2010 fall under the latter category, when he took a shot at the legitimacy of the Houston Rockets‘ two title runs.
Belittling the accomplishments of other teams has been a theme for the 11-time NBA champion head coach. It became well-known that Jackson stated the San Antonio Spurs’ first title in 1999 deserved an asterisk due to it being a lockout-shortened season.
The Spurs swept the Los Angeles Lakers during that playoff run, although Phil Jackson didn’t become their head coach until the following season. Even as recently as 2016, Jackson still couldn’t help but throw in the asterisk jab again when talking about Tim Duncan‘s career.
While not attributing an asterisk to the 1993-95 championship titles by the Houston Rockets, Jackson took a similar shot as to the legitimacy of them, as told in a 2010 Houston Chronicle article.
“Jackson agreed with the argument that the Rockets’ championships were tainted because Michael Jordan was out of the league for their title seasons and much of the next,” says Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen.
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Directly quoting Jackson, the article continues: “Clearly, if the Bulls were whole, we would have won. It’s pretty much registered by now. When Michael played, we won the championship.”
Knowing the dominance of Michael Jordan in the 90s, I could see why Jackson would have confidence in his Bulls winning the championship every season throughout his prime.
That said, it’s very pretentious of Jackson to say “it’s pretty much registered by now,” meaning a majority of people would agree with him.
One of the greatest what-ifs in NBA history is what would’ve happened if Michael Jordan’s Bulls met up with Hakeem Olajuwon‘s Rockets with both stars in their prime. We have our own theories, as clearly does Phil Jackson.
But, seeing a title run of any kind as lesser-than due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control just seems juvenile for someone with the intelligence of Phil Jackson. The Houston Rockets simply put out the best team in the NBA for both of their championship seasons, no matter who their competition was.
San Antonio’s lockout-shortened title should be seen with the same regard as any other, just as the Rockets’ two titles should be held in high regard themselves.
For someone that has won two championships as a player and 11 as a head coach, you would think Phil Jackson has accomplished enough to know how hard winning just one NBA title is. While these comments are 10 years old and there hasn’t been a follow-up about his comments, I would be surprised if his stance has changed on the matter — which is unfortunate.