Read an Excerpt: Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson
368 pages; Penguin Press, HC
Available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
Chapter 1: The Circle of Love
Life is a journey. Time is a river. The door is ajar.
Cecil B. DeMille would have loved this moment.
Here I was sitting in a limo at the ramp leading into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, waiting for my team to arrive, while an ecstatic crowd of ninety-five thousand plus fans, dressed in every possible combination of Lakers purple and gold, marched into the stadium. Women in tutus, men in Star Wars storm-trooper costumes, toddlers waving “Kobe Diem” signs. Yet despite all the zaniness, there was something inspiring about this ancient ritual with a decidedly L.A. twist. As Jeff Weiss, a writer for LA Weekly, put it: “It was the closest any of us will ever know what it was like to watch the Roman Legions returning home after a tour of Gaul.”
Truth be told, I’ve never really felt that comfortable at victory celebrations, which is strange given my chosen profession. First of all, I’m phobic about large crowds. It doesn’t bother me during games, but it can make me queasy in less controlled situations. I’ve also never really loved being the center of attention. Perhaps it’s my inherent shyness or the conflicting messages I got as a kid from my parents, who were both ministers. In their view, winning was fine—in fact,my mother was one of the most fiercely competitive people I’ve ever met—but reveling in your own success was considered an insult to God. Or as they would say, “The glory belongs to Him.”
This celebration wasn’t about me, though. It was about the remarkable transformation the players had undergone en route to the 2009 NBA championship. You could see it in their faces as they descended the long purple and gold staircase into the coliseum dressed in rally caps and championship T-shirts, laughing, jostling, beaming with joy, while the crowd roared with delight. Four years earlier the Lakers hadn’t even made the playoffs. Now they were masters of the basketball universe. Some coaches are obsessed with winning trophies; others like to see their faces on TV. What moves me is watching young men bond together and tap into the magic that arises when you focus—with your whole heart and soul—on something greater than yourself. Once you’ve experienced that, it’s something you never forget.