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on December 31, 2004
Coach Phil Jackson gives his account of his final season as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers which included his juggling act in handling the egos of NBA players. He provides us with details of the tension filled rivalry between superstars Shaq and Kobe Bryant along with the tension involved in the quest for another championship. I found it interesting that Jackson was frustrated with Bryant to the extent he wanted to trade him during the season. At seasons end Jackson asked Bryant whether his being with the Lakers or retiring have any influence on his decision to remain with the Lakers. Jackson hoped Kobe would say something to the effect that he will be best as a player if he (Jackson) is with the team. Instead Kobe said Jackson's being with the team should have no effect on his decision to remain or become a free agent. Since Kobe had his prime years ahead of him it would be Shaq who would be dealt since the two could no longer co-exist on the same team. The Lakers, of course, didn't achieve their goal of another championship since they were derailed in the finals against the Detroit Pistons. I got the feeling Jackson was relieved to be out of the NBA pressure cooker although he didn't rule out the possibility of returning as a coach somewhere in the future. I don't feel the book is a classic by any means, and I'm sure the author didn't intend it to be. I based my three star rating on my interest in the subject, although I know the students at our local high school will enjoy reading it.
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VINE VOICEon December 3, 2004
Seldom is a book like this written so quickly about public figures. Phil Jackson basically kept a diary of last year and his feelings of the players and how he molds his teams. Now, I'm sure the plan was to have the book close with a World Championship. But instead he got a dysfunctional family with a key member under felony indictment, two new family members who struggle to adapt, and a disappointing finish.

Admittedly, in some parts your thinking that you shouldn't be reading this as he pulls no punches on his personal feelings about players and management. But if you are a Laker fan it makes for a fascinating read. And if you are a basketball aficionado, you are subjected in small doses to basketball theory and how Jackson applied them in his job.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. However, I suspect after the initial publicity this book will not have great legs. I came away with an improved image of Shaq and Karl Malone (if it's possible to think higher of a great warrior) and curiosity on how Kobe's relationships with Shaq and Phil can be so strained. A quick read, I strongly recommend you make your own judgment if you have strong interest in basketball or the Lakers.
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on April 11, 2005
I bought this book because I am one of those Laker haters for the same reason I am also one of those Yankee haters; I root against teams that win all the time and that are favorites to win a world championship year after year. Before the 2003/04 NBA season, I grimaced when I first heard the Lakers were getting Karl Malone and Gary Payton. I thought it was the rich getting richer and a lot of sports analysts thought so too as they were almost giving the NBA title to LA before the season started and some believed this Lakers squad could challenge Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls' regular season win record. I was disappointed that Malone joined the Lakers. After spending one of the longest and most successful careers in Utah (a place in which a lot of players wouldn't want to stay), he jumps on the wagon that appears to be on the fastest, easiest route to a championship (again, the rich get richer). That seemed like an almost traitorous way to win one's only title, so I'm glad it did not happen. I bought Jackson's The Last Season to savor in the Lakers' "demise" (well, they did get to the finals which, after game 2 of the San Antonio series, a lot of people, including myself, did not think was possible, so spoiled Laker fans shouldn't be too bummed).

Right on the first page, Jackson writes that he "didn't want this book to be about the small petty gossip that makes up a lot of the NBA world" (p. 1). Don't worry, there is plenty of gossip in this book. He does not bore the reader with X's and O's, although there is some strategy explained when discussing different match-ups. A lot of this book is about Jackson's relationship with owner Jerry Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, opinions on such NBA spokesmen as Dallas Maverick's coach Mark Cuban, Rick Fox and Karl Malone's frustration over injuries, Gary Payton's tantrums about the triangle offense, and, of course, the on-going feud between Kobe and Shaq. The book is written like a journal but is very comprehensive and flows very well. I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes look at the Lakers organization. Their preparation for games I found to be very interesting. At one point in the season, Jackson exposed his players to an aspect of his Buddhist beliefs with a meditation session (Jackson admits he does not think it affected most of the players). He also had clips from the movies Shrek or Miracle on Ice inserted in their film sessions (p. 191). Jackson is candid about Kobe's ball-hogging tendencies and Shaq's abysmal free throw shooting. During the Houston series in the playoffs, Shaq practiced shooting free throws from a foot back which Jackson thought was less than constructive (p. 162). Often, Jackson compares his Laker teams unfavorably to his Bulls teams in terms of preparation and attitude towards the game. Jackson's complaints throughout the book on everything from game start times (p. 95), fines (p. 96), and foul calls (many pages) made me think the coach of the Sacramento Kings wrote the book.

Of course, Shaq and Kobe is the draw to this book, and Jackson does not disappoint the readers. A lot of the petty squabbles are described here. Some of the high lights include Kobe and Shaq only wanting certain photographers (the opposite for each) filming them during practice (p. 110). The Lakers helped pay for Kobe's flights to Colorado for his hearings and Kobe complained the plane was not luxurious enough (p. 32). One of the bad omens in the Detroit series was Shaq blowing up at 82-year-old assistant coach Tex Winter (pp. 232-33). Then, in the end, Kobe tells Jackson he no longer wants to be Shaq's "sidekick" thus completing the stage for Shaq's exit (p. 258). Jackson visited a therapist to help him deal with the Shaq/Kobe factor. Of course, Jackson probably only covers the tip of the iceberg, but it still makes for fascinating reading. Check out this eyebrow-raising line: "This was another example of the basic difference between him [Shaq] and Kobe. Ask Shaq to do something and he'll say: "No, I don't want to do that." But after a little pouting, he will do it. Ask Kobe, and he'll say, "okay," and then he will do whatever he wants" (p. 38). After reading this book, I cannot believe the rumors that Jasckson will return as coach of the Lakers. No way. But, then again, after reading Terrell Owens' book, I never would've guessed he would fire his beloved agent and seek a new contract with Philly, so one never knows. Whether you are a Laker hater, a Laker fan, or are just fascinated with the personalities of the NBA, I definitely recommend this book.
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on January 17, 2005
I am not a Lakers fan...not really an NBA fan. But for some reason I find Phil Jackson an intriuging figure so I bought the book. This is not a Kobe bashing book. It does give his point of view about him and their relationship, which is not great but the book seems to show how he tried to make it better for he and the fellow players during this trying season. What I mostly got from the book, was a suprising look at how this franchise (and probably most others) operates under the scrutiny of the press, fans and the NBA. His account shows just how hard he worked in the shadow of being the coach of one of the most celebrated teams in the history of the NBA and the whole Kobe Bryant/Shaq deal.

I actually came to respect Jackson for his work and dedication to the sport of basketball. He makes you see basketball for the game that it is and how that game has actually lost its innocence since the onset of it being a money generating sport.

It's an easy read...

I still can't justify how these people can command the money that they do...but you see the human side of him and that just because he deals for multi-million dollar contracts, he still believes in a game that made him who he is and almost appears to mourn the loss of what it used to be.
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on January 6, 2017
We really enjoyed listening to this book on CD as we drove across the Nevada desert. It was a very educational experience for me, a new basketball fan. My husband remembers the specific plays he calls out in the book and anticipated Fish making the winning basket. Great fun!
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on November 2, 2004
The book Jackson wrote before this one - called "Sacred Hoops" was much more thrilling. I had trouble putting "Sacred Hoops" down - and Phil sure seemed a lot more 'centered' in those days. Leading the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq obviously has taken Phil out of his rhythm a little bit. Overall this new book is an inside look at a team that truly was searching for it's soul... Hat's off to Phil Jackson. A good read - Laker fan or not.
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2004
I moved to LA at the end of the "Showtime" era of Magic, Kareem and James Worthy, and went through withdrawal like most fans during the slow, frustrating rebuilding years before Phil arrived on the scene. I had a lot of respect for Phil during his years with the Bulls, and was excited to see what he could do with the dysfuntional team he inherited. It turned out to be a pretty amazing run, but I, like most fans in LA, felt it was always overshadowed by the ongoing soap opera of Shaq and Kobe.

This book provides a very insightful look into a pro sports team and the world of the NBA, as well as a peek into the psyches of Phil, Shaq and Kobe. Contrary to some reviewers comments, I think Phil had every right to do a book of this nature. It's not a tell-all expose, just an honest, soul-searching look at a frustrating season of dealing with huge egos (including his own, he admits) and the pain of losing the prize after all the team had been through. There's a lot of heart and soul in this book, and you never get the impression that he was dishing on Kobe just to sell copies.

Phil delivers his story with wit and insight, yet never professes to know all the answers. This is a solid book that will become a sports classic in the years to come.
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on March 6, 2016
Maybe this is not the best book concerned basketball in a history of sport's journalism but this is very interesting diary of Phil JACKSON concerned NBA season 2002/03 and a LAKERS way for taking CHAMPIONSHIP (unsuccesful...). Subtitle is "A team in search of its soul". That was very hard time for a TEAM and his SOUL : KOBE's trial, tense between SHAQ and KOBE, adaptation problems of Gary PAYTON and terrible injuries of KARL MALONE and HORACE GRANT. This is a book about LEADERSHIP, TEAM SPIRIT, CONFLICTS, PRESSURE and hard life of profi sport. The conclusion is interesting - Sometimes very strong rooster will not be successful without real commitment and team spirit. THE MENTAL POWER id MUCH STRONGER than TECHNICAL "PROFI" SKILLS. You are able to have starting lineup with FOUR MEGASTARS (members of basketball HALE OF FAME) and lost a crucial goal .......
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VINE VOICEon December 28, 2004
Phil Jackson has written a very personal account of the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers basketball season. Those who follow the National Basketball Association are well aware of the soap opera season of this talent laden team and its combative stars. Jackson's account in some ways is a sad statement on the state of professional basketball in the United States - indeed the sad state of professional sports in general. It can also be seen as a comic-tragic clash of overpaid, selfish individuals that resulted in underachievement - yes underachievement - that this talented team did not win another NBA Championship. The inability of this sad cast of characters to get along and foster teamwork and collegiality instead of backbiting and selfishness led to the breakup of what may be the most talent duo in NBA history in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

Much of the book is devoted to Jackson's attempts to meld strong, willful personalities that often did not get along into a team. The season started really in the off-season with the acquisition of Gary Payton and Karl Malone, two future Hall of Famers who many felt would ensure the Lakers of another NBA Championship. Then the house of cards started falling. First, Kobe Bryant was accused and later charged with rape in Colorado, resulting in Kobe having to spend a good deal of the season flying back and forth from Eagle, Colorado to Los Angeles and must have caused a great deal of distraction for the team. Then Gary Payton, one of the best point guards in NBA history, finds he can't adjust to the triangle offense. Worse, Payton, so highly regarded for his defensive acumen he attained the nickname "The Glove," can't guard anyone. Then Karl Malone goes down with a knee injury that limited his play throughout most of the season. And to top it all off, Bryant and O'Neal spent much of the season snipping at each other - often through the press.

Not surprisingly Jackson spends a lot of time in the book talking about his relationship to his players, notably Kobe Bryant. He describes Bryant as a narcissistic personality with unbelievable talent. His relationship with Bryant grew so bad that he consulted a psychiatrist during the season. Most of his efforts with Bryant were simply directed at getting him to play within the structure of the triangle offense and within the team instead of as an individual. O'Neal he seems to have a great deal of affinity for. He does, however, imply that O'Neal is a bit thin skinned and at times a little soft in his preparation for games and in playing defense. But undoubtedly he saw O'Neal as the lynchpin in the Lakers championship runs and their prospects to win another. While Jackson spends time talking about his other players as well - particularly Payton, Malone, and Rick Fox - not surprisingly most of his time is devoted to discussing Bryant and O'Neal. It does make for fascinating reading, especially his strategies to get the players to get along and play as a team. Obviously, he ultimately failed in this task in 2003-2004.

Jackson spending so much time discussing personalities and relationships in the book is not surprising. So much of winning in professional sports is the ability to take individuals of great talent and create a team. Much of the rest of the book is devoted to basketball strategy, game preparation, and detailed accounts of the Lakers season and playoffs. If you are a basketball fan this part of the book will be interesting as well. And Jackson does a great job of intertwining and subtly making clear why the personal interactions between the players and between the players and their coaches is as important as X's and O's in winning championships. Winning championships is as much as about functioning together as unit as it is strategy and talent.

One has to take a first person account such as Jackson's for what it is, one person's side of the story. Intuitively I find Jackson's words to be heartfelt and honest. Not only does he blame himself and point out some of his own failings, but his descriptions of his players, particularly Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, are borne out by other accounts (mainly the media) of their personality and clashes. And he has, after all, won 9 NBA championships.
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on July 18, 2005
Phil Jackson chronicles his "last" season with the 2004 Lakers starting from the training camp in Hawaii to the day he was told that the team was taking a "different direction". Jackson the writer and basketball scholar comes to the fore in this book as he frets about the relevance of the 3-second rule as applied to today's big men, the officiating of Shaq, Duncan's ability to save fouls and the influx of high school kids to the NBA.

Interesting locker room tidbits include the extensively reported bathroom meeting between Jackson and the remaining threepeat members (Kobe, Fish, Fox, Shaq and Devean), Kobe and Malone's shouting match after practice and even some from the old Chicago dynasty which involved Jordan crying at a team meeting.

At the end of the book, the writer, obviously smarting from that Finals defeat, labors to explain what transpired and was very reluctant to accept that the Pistons' were indeed the better team that series. But I believe the point where the Lakers were doomed was when

Phil found himself longing for his days with Dennis Rodman on the Bulls' team.

A very good read and stacks up the points for writer Phil but the jury is out on what it will do to the career of coach Phil.
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