After years of playoff disappointment, the Lakers hire Phil Jackson as coach to whip L.A. (and Bryant) into championship shape
POSTED: Apr 11, 2016 8:56 AM ET
Coach Phil Jackson and Bryant reconciled their relationship as the Lakers went on another 2000s title run.
More Quote History of Kobe:
"I, Kobe Bryant...have decided to skip college and take my talents to the NBA."
With those words, a precocious 17-year-old phenom from the Philadelphia suburbs launched what would become one of the most decorated careers in NBA history, spanning two decades and a Hall of Fame resume bursting with accolades:
• Five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers
It was less about what Bryant accomplished than how he did it, with a singularity of purpose that impressed even his role model and mentor, the ferociously competitive Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant's Career Top 10 Plays
Check out the top 10 plays that have made the Lakers' Kobe Bryant a perennial All-Star.
But whereas Jordan was an artist, polished and stylish enough to make his success look almost effortless, Bryant -- who will play his final game Wednesday against the Utah Jazz (10:30 ET, ESPN) -- stubbornly hammered away at his objectives until something broke. Often the opposition, sometimes his own teammates, and now his own body after nearly 60,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs.
It's telling that Bryant feuded with the two most important figures in his professional career, Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson.
But as the following collection of quotes will attest, Bryant never wavered from the goal he laid out all those years ago: To wring every last drop of success out of his career that he possibly could, obstacles be damned.
For all their promise, the Lakers failed repeatedly and miserably in the playoffs during Bryant's first three seasons. Enter Phil Jackson, the Zen-practicing mystic who molded the Chicago Bulls from a one-man show starring Michael Jordan into a six-time champion. He would achieve similar success in L.A. with five more titles. But as was the case throughout Bryant's career, nothing came easily as the two butted heads and fell out in spectacular fashion before reconciling for a second go-round.
"This is the right place for me. I believe they're a group of players who want to (win the championship) but don't know quite how. But I'm no savior. They have to be the savior of themselves." -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Sports Illustrated, 1999
"If you lose, there's always chemistry problems. Maybe we just weren't good enough, maybe we weren't able to take that next step, maybe we weren't mature enough. We feel that this is the area that he's really going to help us. He's going to make these people believe in each other, he's going to make them trust in each other and I think you can see in his comments, he's a very, very confident guy." -- West, Los Angeles Times, 1999
"I've never known anybody to handle crisis the way Phil does. He's able to read the big picture and not let the emotions of the moment control him. Things are going bad on the court, and I'll be screaming at Phil to take a timeout. 'Hey, you better start coaching, and earn that fabulous salary of yours.' But he's likely to say, 'Ah, let 'em work it out themselves.' It's amazing how many times they do." -- Lakers assistant Tex Winter, Sports Illustrated, 1999
Top 10 Plays: Kobe Bryant In 1998-99
Check out Kobe Bryant's top 10 plays from the 1998-99 NBA season!
"I think what has shaped this team, as far as his personality goes, is his sharpness as a person. He's very picky. He pays attention to detail. I think with this team, that was something that we lacked in the past. We had a tendency to overlook things, just see the surface." Bryant during the 1999-2000 season, "Mindgames: Phil Jackson's Long, Strange Journey", 2001
"There are some great coaches, but I think this took a very special combination of talents. Pat Riley, a long time ago, was able to knit together a bunch of superstars and make that into a team. Phil has been able to do that with this team. And at least in my mind, I'd have to doubt that anybody else could have done it." -- Lakers owner Jerry Buss after the 2000 championship, "Mindgames: Phil Jackson's Long Strange Journey", 2001
Do we get along man to man? No. But it's a good relationship from coach to player. I think it's good to have some kind of push-pull relationship. I wouldn't have learned the mental aspect of the game without his help.
– Bryant, on his relationship with Jackson, 2005
"The other day I said to Kobe, 'What's the problem?' He said, 'The game's too boring for me. The offense is so simple. It doesn't display my talent.' I said, 'I realize that. But we're trying to win games with the least amount of things going wrong, the fewest injuries, the least fatigue.' He said, 'But it doesn't give me what I have to have for my game.'
"He's not willing to let someone else's ideas penetrate his mind. Someone told me that in high school, Kobe used to sabotage his own games so the game could be close. So he could dominate at the end. To sabotage the team process, to be so self-centered in your own process ... it's almost stupefying." -- Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times, 2001
"I won't coach this team next year if (Bryant) is still here. He won't listen to anyone. I've had it with this kid." -- Jackson describing his ultimatum to Lakers general manager Phil Kupchak during the ill-fated 2003-04 season, "The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul", 2004
Kobe On Phil Jackson
Kobe Bryant talks about his relationship with Phil Jackson and the roll Jackson played in the evolution of his game.
"I was very stubborn. 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?
"So when he'd come out in the press and say those things about me, I was like...'(Expletive) him. I'm out here busting my ass. 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. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish. It was very, very maddening." -- Bryant on Jackson's criticism, GQ, 2015
He's going to make these people believe in each other, he's going to make them trust in each other and I think you can see in his comments, he's a very, very confident guy.
– Jerry West, on Lakers' hiring of Phil Jackson, 1999
"This is something I thought could never possibly happen, to be standing (here), back again less than one year of having been part of the dissolution of this organization and the changing of the guard -- and feeling so comfortable stepping back into this position. I feel, even more than the first time that I signed a contract with this organization, a complete trust and support from the people, players, staff and management toward the goal we started on today." -- Jackson, Associated Press, 2005
"Do we get along man to man? No. But it's a good relationship from coach to player. I think it's good to have some kind of push-pull relationship. I wouldn't have learned the mental aspect of the game without his help. Phil has shown me a game at a different level, and so I've started to dissect it, understand momentum shifts and the little nuances. That's all because of Phil and his assistants. For me to say he restricts my game would be crazy. We don't have to have dinner together." -- Bryant, Associated Press, 2005
"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." -- Jackson, ESPN.com, 2015
"When Phil came back in 2005, we started that process (of reconciliation) on Day 1. When he said, 'I want to help you get these next championships,' I said, 'Phil, it is not my job to judge or hold grudges.' I understand more than most that people make mistakes. And we moved on." -- Bryant, TNT's Inside The NBA, 2015
"They were made for each other. You felt like everything was OK with Phil at the controls and Kobe out there producing every single night." -- Lakers teammate Ron Artest, Los Angeles Daily News, 2016