Phil Jackson and Isiah Thomas have some things in common.
Both had legendary basketball careers. Thomas led the Bad Boy Pistons to the greatest run in that franchise’s history, he has gone down as one of the greatest point guards the game has ever seen. Phil Jackson won 11 rings and coached the Bulls and Lakers to multiple titles, becoming the greatest coach in NBA history.
Both also had ugly stints and the guy running the Knicks’ basketball operations.
So it shouldn’t be shocking that Thomas, while in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor, said that Jackson’s legacy as a team president doesn’t impact the rest of his legacy. Via the New York Post.
“There’ve been a lot of us who have come through New York that want to do well,’’ Thomas said in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor bout and appearing on The MMA Hour radio show with Ariel Helwani. “For whatever reason we didn’t do well. I look at Phil before he got to New York – how he was respected in the game. And that’s the Phil Jackson I choose to remember. That’s on the real.”
Thomas isn’t completely wrong here — when the book (more accurately, books) is written on the career of Jackson, his time with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal will take up the bulk of it. His time as a Knicks player — and winning a ring as a player — will certainly be mentioned. Then at the end, there will be one chapter on his unimpressive job trying to run a team as the president, how the skills that made him a great coach did not translate to the front office.
In the end, these last few years will be a little rust on the edges of an otherwise sterling and fascinating career. This will not define him.
But it does tarnish things a little.