OUTSIDE of the great Michael Jordan, former NBA star Ron Harper holds legendary coach Phil Jackson in high esteem for his unique and cool approach to the game.
Harper played under the 68-year-old Jackson for eight NBA seasons beginning in 1994 with the Chicago Bulls, winning three championships from 1996 to 1998.
He then followed the former New York Knick forward to Los Angeles, where Harper won two more NBA rings during the 2000 and 2001 seasons with star center Shaquille O’Neal and a young Kobe Bryant forming the Lakers’ dynamic duo.
“He’s (Jackson) one of my favorite coaches, he’s a very intriguing coach. He’s a smart coach and he would challenge you in a different variety of ways because he knows how to get the best out of you,” Harper said in describing the `Zen Master’ of the NBA.
Harper, a known scorer during his early playing years who developed into one of the league’s top defensive players under Jackson, is one of a number of NBA stars visiting Manila to promote the NBA Global Games Philippines featuring the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers.
The Rockets, parading newly-acquired superstar center Dwight Howard and the backcourt combo of James Harden and Jeremy Lin, will play the Pacers, the rising Eastern Conference powerhouse, in the first-ever NBA preseason game to be held in the country on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Harper said Jackson’s ability to get 12 individuals with diverse personalities and big egos to work as one is what makes him a rare find in the game of basketball.
“He’s a guy who knows how to get guys to play as a team. He probably had the best 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 players of all time, but in order to get them to be part of a great basketball team, that’s amazing in itself,” added the 49-year-old Harper, who came to watch Game Three of the PBA Governors Cup semifinal series between Rain or Shine and Petron on Saturday at the Astrodome.
Harper also visited the Manila Boys Town in Parang, Marikina Sunday morning to conduct a basketball clinic as part of NBA Cares, an outreach program of the world’s most popular cage league.