Benny's Book Review: The Last Season

February 07, 2005

I am currently reading Phil Jackson's book, The Last Season. It has a subtile which I can't remember. From reading the text, I'm pretty sure that Phil intended the subtitle to be, ...and Kobe Bryant is a no good whining bastard, but the editors probably shot that down.

(Actually -- to be honest -- I downloaded an mp3 copy of Phil Jackson's book, and I've been listening to it while I walk the dog in the evening. It's not the same as reading the book, but I don't really have the right verb. "I'm currently listening to the book," doesn't work, because I'm not currently listening to it. I'm currently typing on a laptop. You see the problem.)

For my non-basketball fan readers, Phil Jackson is the coach who won six NBA championships with Michael Jordan's Bulls, and then three more with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. He's a former player and current Buddhist. He dates his owner's daughter, who also runs operations for the team. And he coached two future hall-of-famers who couldn't stand each other.

Needless to say, this is a fun story.

The bulk of the attention is rightly on Kobe. He comes through as a selfish, spoiled sociopath. Phil doesn't speculate about what happened in Colorado, and he doesn't need to. He has story aplenty about how disruptive Kobe's personal issues were.

Phil Jackson

Even given his dislike for Kobe, he talks plainly about how necessary Kobe was to the Lakers winning. The reason that Kobe didn't regularly guard the opponents best guard was that he would get too tired to be the explosive force on offense that he needed to be.

On the other hand, Phil seems to have genuine affection for Shaq. Yes, he gets frustrated about his inability to make free throws, but Phil rightly points out that Shaq gets fouled and fouled hard dozens and dozens of times per game. But when Kobe would lambaste the team or his coach in the press, Shaq was first to call the coach to ask if he could respond.

A quick disclosure: as a former LSU classmate of mine, Shaq can do no wrong in my book. And by classmate, I mean we were students there at the same time. I didn't really see much of Shaq in the Electrical Engineering building.

There are really interesting stretches of narrative about the nuances of an NBA offense, his relationship with his owner's daughter, other players on other teams, and the leadership of Karl Malone. I haven't been bored for one second of the 5 hours that I've listened to so far.

As you might expect, Jackson seems to love Michael Jordan and the glory-years Bulls. Remember that season that they only lost a few games the whole year? I think they actually played hard during the regular season. I defy you to find a team that really does that today.

My one complaint is with the reader. I thought he was okay, until he mispronounced the last name of Dirk Nowitzki (the W is supposed to sound like a V). Since then I mistrust him.

He's a pretty well known player. Would it really have been that hard to ask someone the correct pronunciation?