When Shaquille O’Neal suspected Phil Jackson to be a drug user: "I knew what certain drugs smelled like"

F1 Grand Prix of USA
Shaquille O'Neal (F1 Grand Prix of USA)

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had an incredible run with the LA Lakers under famed coach Phil Jackson. One of the most accomplished figures in the history of the game when looking at his complete resume as a player and coach, Jackson was known as the "Zen Master."

The affectionate nickname came during his time as a coach given his unique approach to life. As Jackson has said in the past, his experience with LSD back in the 1970s was a "liberating" experience. As a coach, Jackson had his teams take part in a number of rituals that would likely seem strange to the average person.

The perceptions of Jackson's outside-of-the-box strategies, which often included banging a tribal drum to summon his players to meditating sessions, vary. As it turns out, when Shaquille O'Neal was playing under Jackson in LA, he had a theory on Jackson's pitch-black meditating sessions.

As Shaq revealed in his book, however, he had his own theories about the meditating sessions:

“Phil was definitely a different sort of cat. He was into his Zen mode a lot. Being from the ’hood, I knew what certain drugs smelled like — weed, for instance. Phil wanted us to meditate, so he’d put us in a room and dim the lights and he’d burn sage. It smelled like weed. We’d call him on it, and he’d tell us, 'No, it’s not weed. It’s the cousin of weed.'
“We had this 15-seat theater at the practice facility, and he’d start pounding this Indian drum. When he hit that thing, it meant 'Get your a** to the theatre.'… Once we got in the theatre, he’d turn out the lights, and it would be pitch black. So here comes the weed — oh, sorry Phil, the 'cousin of weed' — and then he’d tell us to lean back in our chairs and relax.”

Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson

Former LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson
Former LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson

When the LA Lakers tried to get Jackson to coach for them, they sent Shaquille O'Neal to his house in Montana. The first thing Jackson asked O'Neal to do when he got there was to move a log. Although the 7-footer was initially skeptical, he obliged.

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As he recalled, the moment reminded him of something his adoptive father, Sgt Philip Arthur Harrison, would have done to test him. As it turns out, he was right, thus marking the first test that Shaquille O'Neal passed with flying colors.

When Jackson joined the Lakers, he made a tremendous impact, ending the three-year slump that Shaq and Kobe were on. After coming up short in the playoffs for three straight years, the duo found success under Jackson, who led them to three straight championships.

Although Jackson has long denied that he would burn marijuana in the room where his players meditated, whatever he was doing worked.


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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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