Heard a story about Phil Jackson and the Bulls from decades back, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. How much is true, how much is myth, I’m not sure. But here’s how it goes …
So, it’s late in the 1992-93 season during Chicago’s first run, but we’re talking about Year 3 of the same team being together, trying to three-peat. Cracks were starting to show. Jackson gathered his team together for an unusual exercise. On a white board, Jackson drew a target, with a bull’s eye in the middle.
Jackson had a Sharpie in his hand, and he instructed the team that he wanted each player to draw a dot somewhere on the target to indicate how connected that individual player felt with the team. If you felt like you were connected, committed and included, draw the dot in the center, Jackson said. If not, put the dot further away.
Jackson asked the team to do this in silence, and then he walked out of the room. His job was done there, and what happened afterward was for the players … not him. One by one, Bulls players approached the white board, picked up the Sharpie and drew a dot somewhere. Some players dotted the target near the bulls-eye, some further away.
Scottie Pippen was the last player to grab the Sharpie. He stood in front of the white board, with a target drawn on it, and removed the pen’s cap. Pippen looked at the target, looked at the entire white board, and then walked toward the wall behind the white board. He went to the corner of the room, stretched out his 6-foot-8 frame and reached as high as he could with his right hand.
Pippen drew his dot on the wall, near the ceiling, far away from the white board itself. Pippen put the Sharpie down and walked out of the room. Then the players left the room … without a word.
That’s it. That’s the end of the story. When the Bulls walked out of that room, they all knew that Pippen wasn’t feeling it, wasn’t feeling connected. It was up to the players, and the players only, to get Pippen back into the fold.
A few months later, in June of 1993, the Bulls won their third straight title.