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“Shaq go move the log in the lake” — How Phil Jackson tested Shaquille O'Neal when they first met

Phil also made Shaq promise that he would stop clubbing, rapping and making movies before taking the Lakers' head coaching job.
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson and center Shaquille O'Neal

Phil Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal

When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Shaquille O'Neal in free agency and acquired Kobe Bryant on draft night in 1996, Dr. Jerry Buss instantly had championship aspirations for the young team. Despite O'Neal and Bryant's inexperience, he believed that the duo was capable enough to bring the Lakers back to glory, but they couldn't click in their first 3 years together.

After going from head coach Del Harris to Kurt Rambis, the organization knew they needed a championship-proven and high-caliber head coach, and so they listened to O'Neal's orders to go after Phil Jackson (who at that time had just concluded his second 3-peat stint with the Chicago Bulls). The Lakers, spearheaded by O'Neal, chased after Jackson in the summer of 1999 in his house in Deer Lodge, Montana.

Shaq passed Jackson's first test

When O'Neal made an effort to travel to Montana to meet Jackson, the first task the former Bulls head coach asked the big man to do was move a log blocking his house in the cold lake. O'Neal admitted that he hesitated to do the task but realized this was the first of many mind games the Zen Master tried to pull on him.

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"We had to interview Phil. They sent me out. Phil said 'Before you come in, I need you to move this log out the lake'. And I'm saying to myself, 'I'm not moving no motherfuc**ng log out on no motherfuc**ng lake'. And then I said 'It's a test, I know'. Because it's stuff my father used to do. My father was a drill servant and he demanded respect. Because Phil had a great resume, he also demanded respect," O'Neal revealed in episode 6 of the Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers documentary.

After O'Neal obliged and accomplished Jackson's first test, the Zen Master didn't stop there. He requested The Diesel to quit partying, creating movies, and rapping because he wanted Shaq to focus solely on basketball. O'Neal instantly agreed, which led Jackson to accept the Lakers' head coach offer.

While they were in Phil's house in Montana, Jackson toured O'Neal around his walk-in closet that had all his championship rings, which sparked Shaq's hunger and motivation to win a title. It was also at this moment when Phil promised Shaq that he could turn him into not just a champion but also an MVP.

Phil Jackson saved the Shaq-Kobe era

Before Jackson accepted the Lakers' head coach position, the organization was close to breaking the Shaq and Kobe duo apart. They couldn't get over the hump in the Playoffs for 3 straight years, and it didn't help that they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in 1998, the season before Shaq chased after Jackson.

When Phil arrived in Los Angeles, he managed to get the best out of the duo and lead them to not 1, not 2, but 3 championships that turned out to be one of the most incredible 3-peat runs in NBA history. Jackson also fulfilled his promise of turning O'Neal into a champion and an MVP. 

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