Lakers governor Jeanie Buss has long talked about the profound influence Phil Jackson had on her life.
And on his 75th birthday on Thursday, Buss wrote about how much the 11-time NBA championship coach inspired her, calling him the "most influential man (outside of my family) in my life."
"His teaching me about team building and staying present in the moment thru meditation changed my life," Buss wrote on Instagram on Thursday. "When we met in 1999 I had no idea the journey we would embark on together. His wisdom and intellectual curiosity inspired me to go on my own mission of seeking truth. Happy Birthday to the Zen Master!! Much love always 💜❤️💜."
When Buss' father, Jerry, hired Jackson to coach the Lakers in 1999, Buss acknowledged she was skeptical.
In an appearance on the "Daddy Issues" podcast with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson in May, she said she was worried his personality wouldn't mesh well with Kobe Bryant's and Shaquille O'Neal's.
She soon realized she was very wrong.
Jackson led the Lakers to five NBA championships and he even ended up winning over Buss, whom he dated for 17 years.
Buss didn't understand some of his tactics at first, such as feeding her dog human food. (He later explained that he wanted her dog to know that he had its back.)
And she was baffled when he made the Lakers practice on Thanksgiving, believing they had a right to be home with their families that day. But there was always wisdom behind his every move.
"He pointed out that forming a team is like forming a family and the players need to spend time together on holidays because 'they are a family too,'" Buss wrote on Instagram in April.
Buss acknowledged she used to worry when Jackson would pour himself into picking out books for each of his players, concerned that his efforts had gone to waste.
But he explained that wasn't the case.
"It made me sad if I heard any player joking about it; I didn’t want Phil’s feelings to be hurt," Buss wrote on Instagram in April. "I shared with him how I felt about it and asked him if it bothered him. His answer blew me away. He said, 'No, it doesn’t bother me. If they take the book and put it on a shelf and it sits there for 10 years that is okay because there will come a day when he reads it and the message will be delivered. There is no time frame on teaching.'"
Buss added on the "Daddy Issues" podcast that her only regret is that she and Jackson didn't have a child together.
"I wished that would've happened, but it didn't happen for me," she said. "The team became like our children."