Kobe Bryant was a five-time NBA Champion and while he may not be with us today, his basketball legend still lives on. Bryant was famously referred to as the Black Mamba for his killer instinct on both ends of the floor.
While this helped Bryant on the floor, it affected him negatively off it, to the point where he was deemed uncoachable by his coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history with 11 championships. In his 2013 book "Eleven Rings," Jackson recalled his history with Bryant which led him to famously declare:
"I can't coach Kobe."
Jackson was talking about the time period after Kobe Bryant's arrest. Bryant, who was accused of rape, was arrested on sexual assault charges in July 2003.
This came after he was married to Vanessa Bryant and had his first daughter Natalia Bryant earlier that year. Bryant denied the rape and sexual assault charges but admitted to having cheated on his wife.
Following this, Kobe Bryant had constant issues with Shaquille O'Neal who he thought wasn't supportive. Bryant also had anger issues. This is when Phil Jackson started having trouble working with Bryant. As Jackson wrote in his book:
"In late January he showed up at the training facility with a bandaged hand and announced that he'd have to miss that night's game. It seems he'd accidentally put his hand through a glass window while moving boxes in his garage and required ten stitches in his index finger.
"I asked him to do some running during practice and he agreed but never did it. Afterward I asked him why he'd lied to me, and he said he was being sarcastic. I wasn't laughing. What kind of adolescent game was this guy playing? Whatever it was, I didn't want any part of it."
Phil Jackson was getting tired of Kobe Bryant's behavior, as it was causing disruptions:
"After practice I went upstairs and told Mitch Kupchak we needed to talk about trading Kobe before the mid-February deadline. "I can't coach Kobe," I said. "He won't listen to anyone. I can't get through to him." It was a futile appeal. Kobe was Dr. Buss's wunderkind, and he was unlikely to trade him, even if it meant jeopardizing our shot at another ring."
After the friction between Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant started to emerge, it was clear that one of them would have to leave.
Bryant was a home-grown kid for the Lakers and had a good repertoire with Dr. Buss. Jackson, on the other hand, was trying to get Dr. Buss to trade Bryant.
Phil Jackson recalled how Bryant forced him to leave:
"A few days later Dr. Buss, who worried that his young star might jump to another team, visited Kobe in Newport Beach and tried to persuade him to remain with the Lakers.
"Obviously, I wasn't party to the meeting, but shortly thereafter, while we were riding on the team bus, Kobe told Derek Fisher, "Your man's not coming back next year." The "man" he was talking about was me."
The friction between the two was problematic, and it might've been the best decision for Jackson to leave the Lakers when he did.
While much of the GOAT debate these days is centered around Michael Jordan and LeBron James, there was a strong rivalry between Kobe Bryant and Jordan. Even during the early days of the Jordan vs LeBron debate, Bryant was often in the running with many claiming that he was either number one or number two all time.
Jackson had a hot take on the Bryant vs Jordan debate. Here is what he had to say:
"One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael's superior skills as a leader. Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence.
"Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he'd yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had in his bones.
"Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around."
While smoking cigars might not be what makes Jordan better, it does help the camaraderie. Jackson talked about their game as well aside from the intangible skills like leadership.
"Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael's tricks. In general, Kobe tends to rely more heavily on his flexibility and craftiness, but he takes a lot of gambles on defense and sometimes pays the price."
Jackson has a preference for Michael Jordan over Kobe Bryant. While he may have had a poor relationship with Bryant, his opinions are similar to those of many analysts in the NBA.