Phil Jackson, the Zen Master of basketball, was called to the mic during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He cursed out a couple of Hollywood stars in his rant and it made for some great TV.
Phil Jackson was called the Zen Master for his calm demeanor, but he lost his cool and cursed out a couple of Hollywood stars during the NBA Finals.
Phil Jackson has more NBA championship rings than any other coach, with 11 rings in 20 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He’s also the only coach in the league with a lifetime winning percentage of over.700. While detractors cited his star-studded lineups, the reality remains that only Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, as well as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, have won championships with Jackson.
Jackson was dubbed the Zen Master, although he never liked the moniker. He’s been a tough competitor for 12 seasons as a player, 20 as a coach, and three as an executive (hey, nobody’s perfect). During a heated NBA Finals in 2008 between his Lakers and the Boston Celtics, he showed a few of Hollywood stars that side of his personality.
The 2008 NBA Finals was Phil Jackson’s lone loss as a coach.
As an NBA coach, Phil Jackson not only won the most championships, but he also made more Finals appearances than any other coach. His teams reached the summit 11 times in 13 attempts for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
One of the defeats was against the Boston Celtics in 2008. The Lakers are the epitome of Hollywood glitter and elegance. By contrast, Boston is a working-class city. For decades, the two franchises have been competitors.
A few Hollywood A-listers attended Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles. They weren’t there, though, to cheer on the purple and gold. Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg are also Boston natives.
The Celtics took the first two games of the series at home before the Lakers came back to win Game 3 in Los Angeles. With a 97–91 victory in Game 4, the Celtics established a dominating 3–1 lead. In Game 5, LA was up against the wall.
The Lakers needed not just that game, but also two victories at TD Banknorth Garden. That was a tall order. During the regular season, Boston was 35–6 at home and 12–1 in the playoffs when the series was moved to Staples Center.
The Zen Master was furious at Damon and Wahlberg.
Phil Jackson is the Zen Master, yet he lost his cool during the 2008 NBA Finals when a handful of Hollywood celebrities from Boston shouted up. | Getty Images/Noel Vasquez
The Lakers were leading Game 5 by 19 points early in the second quarter, but that advantage was erased before halftime. Before LA re-established itself, the Celtics surged back to grab a two-point lead. The Lakers seemed to have a 14-point advantage with 9:17 left in the game.
Boston had a response. Kevin Garnett’s game-tying jumper with 4:35 remaining completed a 16–2 surge for the Cs. Pau Gasol’s bucket gave LA the lead back before Garnett split a pair of free throws. With 3:31 remaining, Jackson called a timeout with a one-point lead.
According to an interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast in 2019, Damon and Wahlberg let the Zen Master have it. Damon described the situation as follows:
“Phil Jackson requests a timeout,” says the announcer. ‘Oh, my God,’ says Mark Wahlberg, and as he calls timeout, he turns on us and says, ‘Sit down and shut the f*** up.’ He was enraged, which I understand. Where is the Zen thing working for you, I wondered? It was fantastic.”
The Celtics supporters, on the other hand, did not have a happy ending.
Following Phil Jackson’s outburst, Kobe Bryant helped the Lakers win.
A second admonition from the Lakers’ bench came to mind for Damon. Before the timeout, Phil Jackson yelled at the two actors. Following that, Kobe Bryant jumped in:
“And then when the game began, [Bryant] raced by us and said, ‘Not today, mother***ers,’ which was hilarious. That’s exactly what you’re looking for.”
With 2:14 remaining, Bryant sank a pair of free throws to give LA a four-point advantage.
Bryant helped clinch the deal with a slam after Paul Pierce responded with two from the line. With 37.4 seconds left, the Celtics trailed 99–95 and lost 103–98.
The Celtics had the last laugh, defeating the Lakers 131–92 in Game 6 to claim their 17th title and (more importantly) their first in 22 years.
In Game 5, Phil Jackson not only won the fight, but he also left Matt Damon with a lasting impression. The battle, however, was won by Damon and his pal Wahlberg, thanks to the Game 6 thrashing.
Basketball Reference and NBA.com provided the statistics.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Phil Jackson called the Zen master?
Phil Jackson is called the Zen master because he is a master of Zen Buddhism.
Who did Phil Jackson lose to in the finals?
Phil Jackson lost to the Boston Celtics in the finals of the NBA Finals.
What did Phil Jackson say about Michael Jordan?
Phil Jackson said that Michael Jordan was the best player of his generation.
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