Shaquille O’Neal hypothesizes that Phil Jackson took him out of the game with 61 points because he didn’t want him to score more than Michael Jordan.
Phil Jackson has coached some of the greatest players to have ever stepped foot on NBA hardwood. to say that you have, not only coached but, won multiple championships with guys like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and more is truly a badge of honor that the ‘Zen Master’ most certainly values immensely.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t the offensive savant that he was in the mid to late 2000s, when he was with Phil Jackson so the two best offensive talents that Phil coached were Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, as they developed into their prime with him on the sidelines.
Both Shaq and Jordan would have their career high in points with Jackson coaching them. The former scored 61 points against the Los Angeles Clippers with Kareem Abdul Jabbar in attendance while the latter had 69 points in 1990 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Shaquille O’Neal on why Phil Jackson took him out of the game early.
Shaquille O’Neal, on his birthday, decided to show his idol, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, just how dominant he was on the basketball court. He did this of course, after seeing Kareem give pointers to the Clippers big-men on how to ‘slow down’ the eventual 3x Finals MVP and ended up scoring a career high, 61 points.
While on NBA Open Court, Shaq opened up about how he wishes he could’ve gotten more playing time as Phil Jackson decided to pull him from the game with 5 minutes remaining in the game. His theory on why Jackson did this was to protect Jordan’s career high of 69 points.
Obviously, the other legends in the room got a good laugh out of this, including Shaquille O’Neal as it’s obvious that this is not the case. The game was a blowout in the purple and gold’s favor and 99% of coaches pull their best players off the floor when such a scenario arises.