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That time Phil Jackson made the Chicago Bulls watch “The Wizard of Oz” in practice to send a message

You gotta respect the Zen Master's innovative methods to get his team's head in the game.
Chicago Bulls head coach Phil Jackson, guard Michael Jordan, forward Toni Kukoc, and center Dennis Rodman

The Chicago Bulls watched The Wizard of Oz 

Eleven-time NBA champion Phil Jackson always had a unique way of leading his championship teams. From incorporating meditation practices during training to perfecting the triangle offense and lighting sage in the locker room, Jackson always knew how to get his message through - no matter how weird the delivery method appeared at first. 

In 1990, Jackson went quite weird by requiring the Chicago Bulls to watch an edited mixtape of "The Wizards of Oz" featuring the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons.

A creative way to send a message

While they were still chasing that first ring, Jackson knew that his team led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen was being outplayed by the Pistons' physicality.

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After all, the "Bad Boy" Pistons had a reputation for their aggressive and hostile approach, which intimidated their opponents, including the Bulls Jackson knew this and wanted his team to conquer their fear by sending a creative message.

"During the 1990 playoffs, I'd shown the team a video with scenes from "The Wizard of Oz." The purpose was to illustrate how intimidated the players were by the Pistons' rough play. There was a shot of B.J. Armstrong driving to the basket and getting clobbered by the Detroit front line, followed by a clip of Dorothy singing "This isn't Kansas anymore, Toto." Another sequence showed by Joe Dumars beating out Jordan off the dribble, while the Tin Man lamented not having a heart. Yet another had Isiah Thomas waltzing by Paxson, Horace and Cartywright as the Cowardly Lion whined about not having any courage. The players broke into laughter at first, but that died down when they realized the message I was trying to convey," said Jackson. 

It probably wasn't fun for the Bulls to see themselves portrayed as the characters from "The Wizards of Oz," but in fairness to Jackson, that was a creative way to wake his team up. Unfortunately, the Bulls lost to the Pistons (4-3) in a 7 game series in 1990, but the message probably stuck in their heads as they went out to exact revenge and swept the "Bad Boys" in 1991.

The message that went to the NBA League Office

Jackson admitted that he didn't edit more movies after the "The Wizard of Oz" in 1991. However, the Zen Master sent a different kind of message the following year — this time to the NBA's League Office, where he showed a mixtape of the Pistons' rigorous plays and cheap shots to put the league on notice. Jackson felt that this was the best way the league would wake up and realize that his Bulls wouldn't roll over just like that.

Whether through a series of game films, an edited version of the "Wizards of Oz," or a compilation of the opponent's rigorous play, we gotta respect the Zen Master's innovative methods to get his team's head in the game. 

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