Amid the anticipation of the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season, sports enthusiasts from coast to coast are directing their focus to the world of football, spanning both professional and collegiate divisions. One team that has ignited a whirlwind of discussions within the NCAA circuit is none other than the Colorado Buffaloes, with their newly appointed head coach, Deion Sanders, drawing keen interest from none other than former Los Angeles Lakers legend, Shaquille O’Neal.
Drawing a parallel between the cultural resurgence initiated by Phil Jackson in Los Angeles and Sanders’ remarkable revival of the Pac-12 contender, Colorado’s narrative has experienced a seismic shift. In the span of just a year, the Buffaloes have transitioned from the laughingstock of college football to one of the most compelling stories of 2023.
It’s essential to recall that Phil Jackson’s illustrious tenure with the Lakers culminated in five NBA championships, including three consecutive titles in the early 2000s. During those triumphant years, Jackson, O’Neal, and the legendary Kobe Bryant formed an indomitable trio that propelled the Lakers to glory, with O’Neal often claiming the coveted Finals MVP honor. Drawing from his championship experience, O’Neal, like countless fans, has cast his discerning eye upon the transformation Deion Sanders is orchestrating amidst the picturesque Rocky Mountains. The anticipation for what lies ahead is palpable.
As the Buffaloes continue to evolve under Sanders’ stewardship, the parallels with Jackson’s transformative era in Los Angeles become increasingly evident. Jackson’s Lakers were renowned not only for their victories but also for the cultural renaissance they ushered in—a fusion of basketball prowess and the glamour of Hollywood. Likewise, Sanders is infusing new life into Colorado football, rekindling the spirit of a program that had long been overshadowed.
In the world of sports, narratives like these are often the ones that resonate most deeply. The underdog’s rise from obscurity to prominence, coupled with the guidance of a charismatic leader, is a tale that transcends the realm of athletics. It captivates the collective imagination of fans and offers a glimmer of hope to teams striving to transcend their limitations.
“I know exactly what the [Colorado] kids are going through because when you are standing in front of someone that has an impressive resume, and you’re trying to get to the level he get to, everything you say is golden,” O’Neal told TMZ. “I felt that way when Phil Jackson first came to the Lakers. Before he got there, me and Kobe, we got swept all the time. But when he came there and stepped in the locker room and we saw he didn’t panic, it taught us not to panic. We know that this guy knows what he’s talking about. Everybody watched him win six rings in Chicago. He knows exactly what he’s talking about. So I know when the defense is listening to [Sanders], I know they’re locked in. I know when the offense is listening to him, they’re locked in.”
In Sanders, the Buffaloes have found not only a coach but also a catalyst for change. His vision and passion have ignited a spark that has transformed Colorado from an afterthought into a headline act. As the 2023 NCAA football season unfolds, the nation will be watching eagerly to see if Sanders can continue to work his magic in the Centennial State, much like Jackson did in the City of Angels. The echoes of greatness, it seems, have found a new home in the Rockies.