Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson is an outstanding book on Phil’s playing and coaching career in the NBA. As someone who loves the NBA and grew watching Phil win these championship rings as a coach, this book was incredibly interesting to me and very difficult to put down.
No coach in any of the major professional sports has won as many championships as Phil Jackson has. Phil has also had the privilege of coaching a few of the NBA’s all time greatest players in: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal (not to mention the long list of other all star and hall of fame players). With that kind of resume there is no question that Jackson would be a treasure trove of wisdom and leadership insights.
Since I grew up watching the Bulls and Lakers win these rings, it was fascinating to read about everything that was going on behind the scenes. Learning about how each of his teams functioned and how Jackson would need to continually adapt his coaching style and strategy was very interesting. This book is a convincing illustration of how great leaders must continually evolve and grow to remain an effective leader. Even when the group of people you lead remain the same, the outside factors in life are always changing which requires leaders to always be aware of: how they are leading, who they are leading, and what they leading their team through and to.
All the hype about Phil comparing Michael and Kobe in this book was a bit overblown by the media. Jackson definitely compares the two, but it is not as scandalous as the media has made it out to be. And after all, does anyone really question whether or not Michael is the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball?
Eleven Rings is such a great book and I would highly recommend it to leaders of any field and then of course to anyone who is a fan of the NBA.
Here are some of my favorite leadership quotes from the book:
After years of experimenting, I discovered that the more I tried to exert power directly, the less powerful I became. I learned to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority. Paradoxically, this approach strengthened my effectiveness because it freed me to focus on my job as keeper of the team’s vision. (p. 12)
The essence of coaching is to get the players to wholeheartedly agree to being coached, then offer them a sense of their destiny as a team. (p. 17)
Oneness is not something you can turn on with a switch. You need to create the right environment for it to grow, then nurture it carefully every day. (p. 84)
(Phil speaking to Kobe) “I guess you’d like to be the captain of this team someday when you’re older – maybe like twenty-five.” He replied that he wanted to be captain tomorrow. To which I said, “You can’t be captain if nobody follows you.” (p. 219)
You’ve got to play to win, not play to avoid losing. (p. 222)