Phil Jackson says Kobe Bryant was sensitive to criticism
Another segment of The Phil Jackson Chronicles was posted on Today’s FastBreak, and it has Jackson speaking about old times, which was a bit of an escape from his new job of reconstructing the New York Knicks.
Jackson recounted particularly about the career of Kobe Bryant, who he worked with for 11 seasons with the Lakers. It was familiar because Jackson had long since written about his time together with Bryant in his book.
This time it was just as easy for Jackson to summarize the early struggles Bryant had with Shaquille O’Neal, which had been a hot bed topic for years.
Jackson also brought up an old statement that he felt was a bit misunderstood to clear the air.
Shaq was traded, I didn’t re-sign with the Lakers and I wrote a book. I never really said that Kobe was ‘uncoachable.’ What I did write was that I couldn’t coach him anymore. In any case, Kobe was always sensitive to criticism, so he was hurt by the book.
That statement had confirmed the suspicion of everyone who theorized that Bryant was out of control, to the point even Jackson didn’t want to be around him anymore, even through success.
Eventually cooler heads prevailed, and Jackson did return to the Lakers in 2005, and went on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Jackson also spoke about another interesting story where a young, stubborn, and fiery Bryant almost got himself traded:
When Kobe was healed and ready to return, I was a bit reluctant to make a major alteration in our winning combination. So I suggested that Kobe come off the bench. ‘I don’t see myself not starting,’ was his response. ‘I don’t want to be known as a bench player.’ Here was a 20-year-old already concerned about his legacy. So we had a little pushback, an indication of what might lie ahead.
A couple of weeks later, we’re still winning and Shaq is completely motivated. But Kobe was only averaging about 19 points per game. So Kobe called Jerry West and wanted to know how Jerry and Elgin Baylor both averaged 30 points. Kobe also said that he wanted to be traded. Of course, Jerry told me about the conversation. And, for a few minutes I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds.
The thing was that Kobe already saw himself as being one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. I thought that, in time, he would indeed reach that goal.
Attitude has taken many talented players off of their path of greatness, but Jackson saw the issues through with Kobe and remains among the winningest coaches in NBA history.
Bryant was indeed tough on the court, but inside he really did want people to love him.
Phil knew that, and he also knew Bryant couldn’t win without him, and history has been written.
Those were the good old days.