In late May, a couple of days after ESPN aired the final installments of "The Last Dance" and with the 1990s Chicago Bulls once again all the rage, who should appear in the Philadelphia Eagles' team videoconference meeting but the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson.
"It was cool, because that's a legend right there," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said.
Jackson dished on the series, gave insight into the differences between Michael Jordan's and Kobe Bryant's approaches (Jordan rode his teammates hard and cussed them out, while Bryant set the tone by never allowing himself to be outworked) and stressed the importance of everyone on the team taking pride in their roles, no matter how big or small.
The Eagles had the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, on their video call today. "He was everything you thought he would be: real chill and cool," one player said.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) May 21, 2020
(Photo via Brandon Graham's Instagram) pic.twitter.com/bJQV5XL6PA
"[Jackson] was talking about some of the guys that went unnoticed that kind of kept them together," Graham said. "Everybody's got to know their role. And enjoy your role, because if we're a team, everybody has a place and everybody has a job. Whatever job is issued to you, that's what you've got to accept until things change, because injuries happen, all kind of things happen, but how you handle yourself as a teammate is very important. That's going to translate real well to us, especially hearing it from him."
Jackson is one of several star speakers who have addressed the Eagles during their virtual offseason. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and six-time All-Star pitcher CC Sabathia have also made appearances. All are former champions. The latest guest appearance was by Los Angeles Angels star outfielder and Eagles fan Mike Trout, who addressed the team on Thursday.
"It gave our guys a different voice to hear from," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "They all have had great careers, and [I] felt that it would be a good idea for our guys to learn from some of the greats in their sport."
Kerr, a part of five championship teams as a player and three as a coach, stressed the importance of going the extra mile in your preparations.
"The best example I took from him was, after practice [Warriors guard] Steph Curry takes a hundred shots. After a full practice," Eagles safety Will Parks said. "That's another thing, to be able to work hard after work and be able to dial in and dedicate even more time to your craft."
The Eagles began their virtual program on April 27 and are scheduled to wrap up on June 25, when the allotted nine weeks is up. The decision was made to keep the coaching staff working remotely despite the easing of restrictions by the NFL and local health officials, in part because Pederson is pleased with how things are going with the current setup. There are typically two team meetings a week to go with the position meetings and workouts that are tailored to the players' home setups.
Players have said that the videoconference life has allowed them to get to know one another even better than under normal circumstances because, as Parks put it, "we have nothing but time on our hands."
There can also be a degree of redundancy to the whole thing, so a guest-star appearance helps keep everyone engaged.
"Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr and freakin' CC Sabathia," Parks said. "What more can you ask for?"