The Zen-Master Who Coached Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant: How Much Has Phil Jackson Earned Through NBA?

Published 07/21/2020, 4:30 PM EDT

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When you think about the greatest coaches that have come and gone in the NBA, one man might stand out. When ‘The Last Dance’ released this year, we all got to relive the astounding legacy of Michael Jordan. But, the man behind the works is the genius and zen-master Phil Jackson. 

Phil Jackson did not enjoy a great playing career, even though he has two championships to his name. Jackson played for the New York Knicks and then the New Jersey Nets, but won both his rings while playing for the Knicks. 

The legendary coaching career of Phil Jackson


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Moving on from his playing days, Jackson began his coaching career and moved between different professional leagues, until he joined the Chicago Bulls and the NBA in 1987. Jackson initially joined as an assistant coach to Doug Collins, who led the Bulls at that time. The rest as we know it, is history. 

Jackson took over as the head coach in 1989 and it just took him a couple of years to get his hands on the NBA championship. Jackson, along with the unstoppable force of Michael Jordan by his side, won a total of six NBA titles in a span of eight years, from 1991-1998. 


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Following the 1998 NBA season, Jackson’s time as a Bulls coach had come to an end after winning two three-peats. But his coaching career didn’t stop there. From moving on from coaching one GOAT, he landed in Los Angeles to train another. 

Phil Jackson agreed to coach the Los Angeles Lakers starting from the 1999-2000 NBA season. What followed was three years of unmatched dominance in the league. By combining the dynamic duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Jackson earned yet another three-peat in his glorious coaching career. How many coaches can say that? A treble of three-peats by a coach in the NBA is a feat that has been unmatched and probably won’t be for several more years. 

Phil Jackson upon leaving the Lakers in 2004, returned to coaching the team, just a year later. Though he didn’t find immediate success, Jackson won two more back-to-back NBA titles to add to his collection. With 11 NBA titles to his name, Phil Jackson is by far the greatest head-coach the NBA has ever witnessed. 

How much is the zen-master worth?

Surely Jackson must have earned a fortune in his outstanding NBA career. As his success rate grew, Jackson’s contract value gained speed parallelly. When Jackson led the Bulls to a then-record regular-season performance in 1996, he eventually won the championship and the Bulls stretched his contract by signing him on a one-year-extension. 

It was reported to be a one-year deal worth at least $2.5 million, as Jackson wanted a pay raise to match John Calipari, who was earning $3 million a year coaching the New Jersey Nets. Jackson kept singing one-year contracts, and ultimately signed his last one in 1997. 

In his final year with the Bulls, i.e ‘The Last Dance,’ Jackson signed up for a $6 million deal, and honestly, both parties profited from it. His Lakers contract did not disappoint either. When Jackson initially signed with the Lakers, he struck a five-year $30 million deal. When the zen-master signed his second contract, it only made him richer. In his last year with the team, Jackson was reported to be earning $10 million annually. 

The executive life of Phil Jackson


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The New York Knicks saw a blooming executive inside Phil Jackson and lured him by posing a massive contract. The Knicks secured the services of Phil Jackson as their president of basketball operations in 2014. The deal? Jackson was guaranteed a $60 million contract over five years

However, the most successful coach in the league’s history did not have much success as an executive. In fact, the Knicks went through the worst transition when Jackson took charge. They failed to make the playoffs and even set a team record in losing. 


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After an unsuccessful stint, the zen-master decided he no longer saw himself fit in the position and agreed to step down as the president of the Knicks. However, he had an assured contract and still had two years left on it. Thus, he had to be paid even after stepping out of the role which made him even richer. 

Phil Jackson is now living a peaceful retired life, enjoying life in his humongous property in Montana. The 74-year-old’s net worth is reported to be $70 million, a large part of it which came through his deal with the Knicks and his second coaching stint with the Lakers.


Written by:

Arjun Athreya


One take at a time

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.
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