ESPN: Maybe we need to start a new theme: Kobe Bryant can’t win a championship without Phil Jackson.
The great irony of Bryant’s drive for independence from Shaquille O’Neal was that it reinforced the philosophy that you can’t do it on your own. Everyone needs help, and the method for Bryant to acquire the greatest individual reward of his career — the 2009 NBA Finals MVP trophy — was to buy into the wisdom of his coach and former nemesis. In turn, the final steps of Bryant’s evolution allowed Jackson to stand alone as the coach with the most championships in the history of the league.
Over the five years during Jackson’s first stint as Bryant’s coach, the two had grown as distant as California and Maine. Jackson asked management to trade the young star. And when it looked like Jackson wouldn’t be back after the 2003-04 season, Bryant’s response was “I don’t care.”
Contrast that to the lovefest of recent days, when Bryant said, “I’ve been spoiled my whole career playing with Phil. It’s hard to imagine playing for anyone else, obviously. I grew up with him.”
Jackson praised Bryant’s growth, recalling a conversation they had early in Bryant’s career after yet another game in which the ascending star got caught up in his own agenda, this time a one-on-one battle with Vince Carter in Toronto:
“I talked to him a little bit about leadership and the quality and his ability to be a leader, and he said, ‘I’m ready to be a captain right now.’ And I said, ‘But no one is ready to follow you.’