clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who said it: Phil Jackson or Lao Tzu?

Listening to Knicks president Phil Jackson speak about basketball is one of life's great pleasures. I believe Knicks fans can appreciate this more than most -- seeing as how the franchise's previous default mode was to issue year-long gag orders on anyone with anything interesting to say -- but any NBA fan can enjoy listening to the Zen Master waxing philosophical about the game he loves.

And boy, do things get philosophical.

Listen to Jackson explain the importance of passing to

"Passing is a communication of values ...


The essence of giving yourself is the pass."

Compare Jackson's style to this passage from the ancient Chinese philosophical work Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (老子):

"Return is the motion of the Tao.

Softening is its function.

All things in the cosmos arise from being.

Being arises from un-being."

Poetic, profound, maybe just a teensy bit inscrutable. If you replace "passing" with "the Tao," Jackson's words could have come straight from the Tao Te Ching. I'm not suggesting that Phil is aping his style from Lao Tzu, I'm just saying that the Knicks president has evolved into a 2600-year-old Chinese philosopher so gradually, we might not have noticed. Hell, Phil could be Lao Tzu for all we know...have you ever seen those two dudes in the same room at the same time?

To test your knowledge of Phil-osophy, I've prepared a "Phil or Lao Tzu" quote quiz. The rules are simple: I've replaced any Phil-specific terminology (ex. basketball, player, team) with more Lao Tzu-appropriate words (ex. Tao, sage, country) where appropriate. All you have to do is guess who said it: Jackson or Lao Tzu:


"The unconscious mind is a terrific solver of complex problems

when the conscious mind is busy elsewhere, or,

perhaps better yet,

not overtaxed at all."


"If you understand others you are smart.

If you understand yourself you are illuminated.

If you overcome others you are powerful.

If you overcome yourself you have strength."


"When there is nothing you can't overcome,

Who knows the limits of your capabilities?"


"When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows."


"Approach the Tao with no preset agendas

and you'll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts. "


"The soul of success is surrendering to what is."


"Not valuing your teacher or not loving your students:

Even if you are smart, you are gravely in error.


"What do I mean by 'Accept humiliation as a surprise?'

When you are humble,

Attainment is a surprise,

And so is loss."


"Produce it but don't possess it.

Act without expectation.

Excel, but don't take charge."


"Spike Lee is an avid Knicks fan who doesn't know much about the Tao."

Answer Key: 1 - Phil, 2 - Lao Tzu, 3 - Lao Tzu, 4 - Phil, 5 - Phil, 6 - Phil, 7 - Lao Tzu, 8 - Lao Tzu, 9 - Lao Tzu, 10 - Lao Tzu ( was Phil, but I'm sure Lao Tzu agrees)

What was your score? Let us know in the comments section.