Phil Jackson had an eleven-year stint as coach at Los Angeles Lakers. But managing Kobe Bryant wasn’t an easy task. Perhaps the stiffest challenge Jackson faced during his tenure at Los Angeles. He had his share of ups and downs regarding his relationship with Bryant.
Things were on a high when the duo combined to notch up five NBA championship titles. But the sweetness soured as both men made efforts to get at each other’s nerves in order to dominate the other end. The “clash of ego,” as it is popularly known as.
Problems between Jackson and Bryant became worst during Jackson’s first stint at Lakers from 1999 to 2004. Shaquille O’Neal lifted the combination with his efforts guiding to three consecutive championship titles.
Jackson returned at Los Angeles in 2005, when there was no Shaquille as backup. He described Bryant in less-than-flattering terms while describing his team’s 2003-04 campaign in “The Last Season: A Team in Search Of His Soul.”
On Monday, ESPN published another series of Jackson’s conversation with a reporter where he revealed his mindset last season.
“I’m sure Kobe was pissed when I wrote in ‘The Last Season’ that he was uncoachable. And, yes, we were often at loggerheads. He wanted more freedom and I wanted him to be more disciplined. This is a normal source of friction thing between coaches and players on just about every level of competition.
“But when I came back for my second stint with the Lakers, Kobe and I worked it all out. I gave him more of a license to do his thing, as long as it stayed within the overall context of the triangle. And we did win two more championships. Anyway, I’ve always seen Kobe as a truly great player, an intelligent guy and a remarkable person.”
Jackson’s revealed his part of things describing the “strained” relationship euphemistically.
Bryant, a legendary star at Lakers, has his part to clarify.
“I was like a wild horse that had the potential to become Secretariat, but who was just too [expletive] wild. So part of that was him trying to tame me. He’s also very intelligent, and he understood the dynamic he had to deal with between me and Shaq. So he would take shots at me in the press, and I understood he was doing that in order to ingratiate himself to Shaq. And since I knew what he was doing, I felt like that was an insult to my intelligence. I mean, I knew what he was doing. Why not just come to me and tell me that?”
“Yeah. I was like, ‘[expletive Jackson]. I’m out here busting my [expletive]. I’m killing myself.’ And it became insulting. Because I chose to extend my deal with the Lakers to play with Shaquille O’ Neal and win championships. I knew what I could have done individually. I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game. I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people.”
The cold war is still on as both contradict each other in words, despite Jackson having left Los Angeles as the President of the New York Knicks.