The former Lakers coach was witness to the multitude of on-court moments that made Bryant a beloved Los Angeles icon.
It had nothing to do with Bryant's on-court heroics.
FULL SPEECH: Phil Jackson speaks at the Kobe Bryant statue unveiling pic.twitter.com/F9LEftuNh1
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Jackson talked about the time Bryant and several Lakers appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" following their seven-game 2010 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics.
On the show, Kimmel showed a clip featuring all of the NBA Finals highlights of then-Laker Adam Morrison — the joke being that the former Gonzaga star was inactive and in street clothes the entire series. The bit got plenty of laughs from the players and audience. After it ended, Bryant spoke up immediately in defense of Morrison, a Type 1 diabetic who was not present.
"First of all, let me just say that was funny as hell," Bryant said. "But secondly, let me just say that, you know, that's a testament to our team, honestly, because Adam can really play. Like, he can really, really go. And for him to take a step back and to do things like that really helped us get to that championship level."
Bryant's comments were met with loud applause. They also made quite an impression on his coach, who brought them up nearly 14 years later.
"Kobe said, ‘Don’t make fun of Adam Morrison. He’s one of our teammates. He puts in the work. He may not get to dress, but he puts in the work and he’s part of our team,'" Jackson said.
The former coach added, "That’s when I was the proudest of Kobe,” then left the podium.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.