"Fortunately, I had an outlet for my energy in which success came easily—basketball. I was 6’6’’ in high school—and would grow to 6’8’’ in college—with square shoulders and arms so long I could sit in the back seat of a car and open both front doors at the same time. My classmates poked fun at my gangling physique and nicknamed me “Bones”, but I didn’t mind because I loved the game. In 1961, my senior year, I led Williston high to the state championship, scoring 48 points in the tournament final. The next thing I knew, I was being hotly pursued by the new coach at the University of North Dakota, Bill Fitch.
One reason for my early success was my fierce competitive drive, honed over the years by battling two older brothers at everything from checkers to one-on-one hoops. Charles and Joe, six and four years older, respectively, made fun of me when I tried to compete with them, and their laughter drove me to try even harder. No doubt I inherited some of that spirit from my mother, who was a basketball player in high school and turned every activity—ironing shirts, playing scrabble, hiking with her Sunday school class—into an Olympic sport. For me, winning was a matter of life and death. As a kid, I often threw temper tantrums when I lost, especially if I was competing against my brothers. Losing made me feel humiliated and worthless, as if I didn’t exist. Once during a high school baseball tournament, I was called in as a reliever and pitched nearly perfect ball for several innings. But I was inconsolable when we lost, even though it was probably my best performance of that year. I just sat in the dugout after the game and wept." - Phil Jackson, Excerpt from Sacred Hoops