The Los Angeles Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s Nos. 8 and 24 at halftime of Monday’s game against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center, but the coach who steered him to all five of his NBA championships in purple and gold is reportedly unable to attend the jersey retirement ceremony.
Phil Jackson cannot make the trip for undisclosed reasons, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.
Jackson retired to Montana following his exit after three seasons as president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks. The legendary coach’s relationship with Bryant was a rocky one, never more so than when he described his star player as “uncoachable” in a book while still coaching him in 2004.
And Bryant said this of Jackson to GQ magazine as recently as 2015:
GQ: Why do you think Jackson would write such negative things about you? Was he trying to psychologically motivate you, or is he just kind of a weird, arrogant person?
Bryant: Well, most successful people are a little arrogant…. I was very stubborn. I was like a wild horse that had the potential to become Secretariat, but who was just too f***ing 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? Another thing was that I would go to him in confidence and talk about certain things, and he would then use those things to manipulate the media against me. And from that standpoint, I finally said, “No way. I’m not gonna deal with that anymore.” This was during our first run, during those first three championships. So when he’d come out in the press and say those things about me, I was finally like, “F*** it. I’m done with this guy. I’ll play for him and win championships, but I will have no interaction with him.” Yet at the same time, it drove me at a maniacal pace. Because either consciously or unconsciously, he put a tremendous amount of pressure on me to be efficient, and to be great, and to be great now.
Jackson then responded in a 2015 interview with Charley Rosen:
“Ah, my good friend Kobe Bryant. … Yes, quite often I could feel his hatred.
“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.”
We should stress again that the reason for Jackson’s absence on Monday has not been made public, and his communication with Bryant would suggest it is not in response to their rocky relationship. Both Bryant and Jackson attended Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling at Staples Center in March.
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More Kobe Bryant coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Michael Lee: How Kobe became the NBA’s godfather
• Mamba Moments: 20 snapshots from 20 years of Kobe
• Eric Adelson: What if Kobe’s darkest chapter happened today?
• Vikings star salutes Kobe with cleats, TD celebration