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“He had a Tai Chi master come to practice” — Kobe Bryant on the silliest thing he’s ever witnessed Phil Jackson do

The Zen Master was always one step ahead not just against his opponents but also with his players
Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson

Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson

Besides being known as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, Phil Jackson has often been associated with his spiritual beliefs. There's a reason why the NBA community calls him the "Zen Master," as he believed in Zen practice so much that he often required his teams to meditate — to the point that not even the greatest players ever, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were spared from this.

That time when Jackson hired a Tai Chi master.

Bryant, who Jackson coached for 11 years, once shared that the silliest thing he's ever witnessed Jackson do is when the coach hired a Tai Chi master to conduct a class during practice. The five-time champion admitted that he was pissed and confused at that moment but only realized the importance of why Jackson did this when he retired.

"He had a Tai Chi master come to practice once. I walked out there, and I saw a Tai Chi master standing on center court and tell us to take our shoes off and when I took them off, I was pissed. I was ready to play basketball and he's standing right up there and said everybody close their eyes and do stuff like monk gazing at the moon and letting the fingertips touch and all the spirituality behind that, and I'm peaking around and thought is everyone doing this shit? What the hell is going on? And then big ass Phil was there doing it himself and I'm like damn," Bryant said in an interview published by Valuetainment.

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Bryant acknowledged that he eventually bought into Jackson's meditation principles not because he was required to do so but since he realized how much of a positive influence this had on his game. The Black Mamba said Jackson was the reason why he learned to approach the game calmly and not succumb to the pressure during high-stake moments.

The Zen Master was always a step ahead

In his New York Times best-selling book entitled "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success," Jackson talked about the importance of mental training and why he instilled this in his championship teams. Based on his playing days, Jackson knew that pressure often messes with a player's focus and emotions, and so the coach did his best to train his teams to handle this the right way.

"What I discovered playing for the Knicks is that when I got too excited mentally, it had a negative effect on my ability to stay focused under pressure. So I did the opposite. Instead of charging players up, I developed a number of strategies to help them quiet their minds and build awareness so they could into battle poised and in control,"

Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

True enough, Jackson's teams were successful in high-pressure close-out games, most notably the '98 Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 and the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 versus the Boston Celtics.

You don't hear coaches often implement spiritual and mental training for their teams, which is why this separates Jackson from the rest. This is one of the many reasons why Jackson is arguably the best coach of all time, as the Zen Master was always one step ahead not just against his opponents but also with his players. 

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