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Phil Jackson explains how Michael Jordan did not win games by himself

Michael might be the best, but he couldn't have done it alone.
Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson

Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson

Michael Jordan is regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time and the unquestioned alpha of the 90s Bulls that won six championships, but even his coach Phil Jackson admits it was not all about MJ.

Team game

Basketball is a team sport, and even though we have seen numerous amazing individuals through history, there is no single guy that can beat a quality team that plays together. We all think of MJ as the ultimate winner, winning all six of the Finals appearances, but that isn't every single season he played.

For the first six seasons of Michael's career, the star shooting guard couldn't get over the hump and even take his team to the Finals. Although he was posting the best individual numbers of his career at that time, it didn't equate to winning because he didn't know how to combine that with an all-around contribution that would make his team better.

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But luckily, when Phil Jackson came into the coaching position back in 1989, things changed. Phil would install a system called the triangle offense, bonding the team into one unit that works together rather than a one-man show. And it worked wonders early.

In their first 1991 Finals trip versus the Lakers, Phil would have to instill into Michael that he has to trust his teammates if he finally wants to win that ring:

"I had to encourage Michael to penetrate, pitch to Paxson, he's gonna be wide open. All the concern is about Jordan is gonna try to score, he wants to win the championship so bad, he's gonna try to do everything, show them that you can pass the ball. I think Paxson hit seven jump shots off of Jordan's passes."

Phil Jackson, The Universe Galaxy NBA

The talk would pay off, and Jordan would guide his Bulls to their first championship, but also in huge thanks to his team, with great contributions from guys like Pippen, Grant, Paxson, and Cartwright. That trend would continue for all the upcoming Finals, and MJ would even trust his supporting cast in the crucial moments like with John Paxson in the 1993 Finals or Steve Kerr in the 1997 Finals.

"No matter how great he(Michael) played, there were nights he couldn't overcome another team. It was a team game, and the supporting act had to come from five guys. And he had to share the ball, and he had to find a way to incorporate his great individual game into a great team game."

Phil Jackson, The Universe Galaxy NBA

We all knew Jordan was an astonishing individual, but Phil helped him become a basketball player and winner, building a system in which he could utilize MJ to his max and still get the rest of the squad to contribute. After all, guys like Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc, Grant, Paxson, Kerr, Longley, and much more all played their roles perfectly through the years in Chicago, and Michael's ability to distribute the ball played a significant part in that.

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