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On This Date in Sports December 25, 2008: Phil 1000

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In their first meeting since the NBA Finals in June, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 92-83 at the Staples Center. The Celtics entered the game with a record of 27-2 and were in the midst of a franchise record 19-game winning streak. The win marked a milestone for coach Phil Jackson, who became the quickest coach to win 1,000 games, improving to 24-5 on the season.

Phil Jackson was born on September 17, 1945, in Deer Lodge Montana. After playing basketball at North Dakota, Jackson was drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the NBA Draft, (17th overall). With the Knicks, he became a defensive specialist with a team that won two NBA Championships. At the end of his playing days with the New Jersey Nets, Phil Jackson became a coach, relying on a Zen philosophy. His first chance to become a head coach came in the CBA with the Albany Patroons in 1982.

After five years coach in the CBA, Phil Jackson became an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, eventually replacing Doug Collins in 1989. With the Bulls, Jackson became a success helping Michael Jordan win his first championship in 1991. The Bulls would go on to win three straight championships, before Jordan’s retirement in 1993. After Michael Jordan return, the Bulls again won three championships in a row, beginning with a historic 72-win season in 1996. After winning six titles in eight years, Phil Jackson was not retained as troubles with General Manager Jerry Krause came to a head, as the team decided to break up the dynasty and focus on the future.

After taking a year off, Phil Jackson returned to the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers and led a team that included Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant to three straight titles. However, in 2004 he decided to retire as O’Neal and Bryant could no longer co-exist with both wanting to be the star of the Lakers. Despite writing a book critical of Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson returned in 2005 and led the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 2008 where they lost to the rival Celtics in six games.

Following the 2008 Finals, the Lakers were once again showing they were the top team in the Western Conference as they held 23-5 heading into a highly anticipated matchup with the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day at the Staples Center. The Celtics led by Doc Rivers were coming off their 17th NBA Championship held a record of 27-2, powered by a franchise record 19-game winning streak. The game was close throughout as Boston held a 24-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lakers began to take over in the second quarter, outscoring their rivals in green 28-21. In the second half, the Lakers turned up the defensive pressure, limiting the Celtics to 32 points, as they won the game 92-83. Kobe Bryant led the way for Los Angeles, with a game-high 27 points, with nine rebounds and five assists. Paul Gaol meanwhile added 20. The Celtics meanwhile got 22 points from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who had 20 points. The Lakers also got strong games off the bench by Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic who each had ten points. The win was the 1,000th of Phil Jackson’s career, reaching the milestone faster than anyone else in NBA history, 11 games faster than Pat Riley.

The Lakers finished the season with a record of 65-17 and went on to win the NBA Championship, while the Celtics finished 62-20 and lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round. Phil Jackson would step down again in 2011, retiring with 1,155 career wins and 11 NBA Championships.