More Than a Game
More than a Game covers the years that follow the one featured in the ESPN documentary series "The Last Dance."
After leaving the Bulls at the end of the 1997-1998 season—the year featured in the new ESPN documentary series "The Last Dance"—Phil Jackson had one year off and started to write this book—together with his old friend, fellow player and coach, the basketball novelist Charley Rosen. Then Phil took the LA Lakers coaching job, Rosen followed him there, and by the time they finished writing this book it was 2000 and Phil had won yet another NBA championship, the first of five he would win with his new team.
In More than a Game, Jackson and Rosen look backward to their origins as players and coaches, forward to the future of the game of basketball, and linger in the moving target of the present—lavishing page after page on the Triangle Offense and all the ways it reveals the essence of the game of basketball they both love so much. This is Jackson in his prime, transitioning from the Bulls to the Lakers, a master of the art of winning, who would go on to claim more NBA championships, eleven, than any other coach in NBA history. As he writes in More than a Game of his newest championship team: "We won because our fundamentals were sound, because Shaq was so dominant and Kobe was so creative, but we also won because we developed a certain confidence in our ability to win."
At first glance, this book is a strained synthesis. During the first half, storied NBA coach Jackson and CBA coach-turned-writer Rosen alternate chapters. Each details his upbringing, life in basketball and friendship with the other. Even though Jackson is the star here, he gives little attention to his years with the Bulls (covered in his earlier book Sacred Hoops). Later in the book, Jackson recounts, game by game, his championship first season with the previously undisciplined Lakers. It seems a somewhat perfunctory treatment of a surprising season, until the book's true (and higher) purpose slowly becomes clear: it is a magnificent tribute to Tex Winter's triangle offense, the perfect scheme. In describing their attempts to implement the triangle in the CBA, the authors illustrate its effectiveness, even its necessity. Jackson and Rosen depict the Lakers learning to make the offense work, finally suggesting that the triangle could work for any team that Michael Jordan wasn't the only reason Chicago won six rings under Jackson. And through it all, they show that the only thing standing in the way of many teams adopting the triangle, just as many NFL teams have taken up the West Coast offense, is player ego. For the heart of the scheme is the individual's sacrifice of status and spotlight for the greater success of the team. The technical details in this wonderful book will give any fan a better appreciation of the game.