Phil Jackson Played Shaquille O’Neal 48 Minutes A Game To Get Him...

Phil Jackson Played Shaquille O’Neal 48 Minutes A Game To Get Him Into Shape

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Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson
Justin Sullivan/AP

The Los Angeles Lakers, led by head coach Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, created a dynasty in the early 2000s as they won three consecutive NBA Championships.

While they were winning championships, it wasn’t all harmony between the three as differences of opinions led to the Lakers trading O’Neal to the Miami Heat and Jackson leaving the team after the 2004 season, leaving Bryant the last of the trio to remain a Laker.

Some of the differences had to do with O’Neal inability to stay in shape, which did not sit well with Bryant as he is one of the hardest workers to ever play the game.

Jackson, who is also known as the Zen Master, had some interesting tactics that helped him win an NBA record 11 championships in his coaching career. One of those tactics had to do with O’Neal and trying to keep him in shape.

As he recently wrote in the Players Tribune, at the beginning of the 1999-00 season Jackson asked O’Neal what he thought Wilt Chamberlain’s great accomplishment. While O’Neal responded with his points and rebound averages, Jackson corrected him and said that it was him averaging over 48 minutes per game.

So in order to keep his dominant center in shape, Jackson began doing the same with O’Neal:

So I played him 48 minutes a game until he called uncle, which wasn’t that many games into November. But he didn’t want to come to my office to tell me, so he sent John Sally as his spokesperson. I was glad to comply, as I didn’t expect this experiment to last the whole year. That wasn’t the point. We never spoke another word about it. It did, however, get him in great condition. By season’s end, he was the MVP.

O’Neal averaged a career-high 40.0 minutes per game that season, while also averaging a career-high 29.7 points per game and 13.6 rebounds en route to the first of three consecutive championships and his only NBA Most Valuable Player award.

The former Laker great, O’Neal, is a part of the 2016 NBA Hall of Fame class, along with other greats such as Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, and Sheryl Swoopes, that was recently enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.