"The key moment for me came during a game in San German, a town in the southwest whose fans hated the Gallitos so much they lit candles the night before we arrived and prayed for our death. Just before the game was about to start, someone broke a rim on one of the baskets, and everybody in the stadium, including about 5,000 fans, had to wait while the rim was being rewelded at the local gas station.
It took forever. Meanwhile the fans were getting drunk and restless, and the drums were beating louder and louder. My kids were running wild, and June was worried about Chelsea, whose leg was swollen from a spider bite. I tend to get phobic in large stadiums, unless I’m down on the floor, separated from the crowd. All this craziness was making me nervous, so I retreated to the dressing room.
It was a dank concrete room, lit by a dim bulb dangling from the ceiling. My players were so spooked by the place they always came fully dressed for games in San German. They never told me why; I thought it had to do with witchcraft. After sitting in the dressing room for a while, however, I spotted the reason out of the corner of my eye: a tarantula the size of a softball crawling down the wall inches from my head.
In an attempt to escape on fear I’d come face to face with (for me) an even greater fear. Ever since childhood, I’ve been terrified of spiders, but my mind was clear enough at that moment so that I didn’t panic. I just sat there and watched the giant tarantula slowly—ever so slowly—make its way along the wall. I wanted to sit through the fear, to experience it as fully as possible, until I felt comfortable enough to just be there in the room. And I did. When I finally got up and returned to the stadium, I didn’t feel anxious anymore. From then on, the riotous nature of life in Puerto Rico no longer posed a threat."
- Excerpt by Phil Jackson in Sacred Hoops