Meditation & Health No 15 - Table of Contents

The Mindfulness of an NBA Coach


One Breath, One Mind

    Phil Jackson, widely considered to be one of the greatest coaches in NBA (National Basketball Association) history, led the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to a combined record of 11 consecutive championship titles.

     Phil, whose life is deeply influenced by Zen philosophy, incorporated meditation into his coaching style, which earned him the nickname “Zen Master.” Building on the concept of meditation, Phil discovered that “when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind.”

     Through rituals and techniques, he created mindfulness for his teams so they could better connect with one another, preparing them for the teamwork needed on the court. This is especially apt for basketball players who need to make split-second decisions under tremendous pressure. Meditation aids the athletes in building their mental strength and making the right choice. Before every playoff game, Phil requires all players to meditate for an hour to help them relax and regain full focus.

      Prior to game five of the 1997 NBA playoffs, star player Michael Jordan was diagnosed with food poisoning.

    Running a high fever, he was unable to train or compete. However, just before the start of the game, Jordan suddenly requested to compete in the championship playoff game, shocking everyone on and off court. Jordan played the entire game. He was the game’s top scorer and playmaker — he made a three-point shot that cemented the Bulls’ victory.

     When Jordan spoke of playing “in the moment” as he performed spectacularly in carrying the Bulls to championships in 1997 and 1998, he was crediting pre-match meditation as being responsible for his miraculous results.

      Before the start of a game, Jordan would head to a small shack located next to the changing room in the stadium, where he proceeded to close his eyes and meditate. He visualized himself completing the whole process of dunking, passing, stealing rebounds, and shooting layups. He revealed that meditation allowed him to focus, to lose himself and live in the moment, with only victory motivating his thoughts.

      What ordinary folks view as an inconceivable miracle is precisely the strength produced from meditation.



Meditation & Health No 15 - Table of Contents