The LA Lakers were 2-time defending champions the last time that Phil Jackson publicly berated Kobe Bryant for selfish basketball.
Its been a while since we last saw Phil Jackson on the sidelines of an NBA game. 10 years, to be exact. His final year with the Lakers was 2010-11, when Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks swept his double defending champions out of the playoffs.
Since that time, the shine has come off the Zen Master for a bit. He went to New York as the President of Basketball Operations but was fired in 4 years. His teams mucked up the triangle offense and couldn’t make a single playoffs with him at the helm.
But before he became the bane of Knicks basketball, there was a time when Phil Jackson got universal adulation. He won 11 rings as a head coach and 2 rings as a player for the Knicks. And he was the crucial ingredient to all of those rings with the Lakers for sure.
Phil might’ve been the one coach that understood how to get Kobe Bryant going at full throttle. He might also have been the one basketball person on the planet to call Kobe out on his ball-hogging publicly.
Kobe Bryant maturely responded to Phil Jackson calling him out in public
The Lakers lost their first game of 2011 in a blowout to the Memphis Grizzlies. Kobe Bryant virtually shot the Lakers out of the game by himself after trying to reignite their offense, which was in a funk all game long.
Phil Jackson was scathing in his assessment off his star’s play on the night in the post-game presser.
“Kobe had to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one. That takes the rest of the guys out and as a consequence, that didn’t bring us back in.”
A lesser man might have taken exception to his own head coach blaming him for a loss. But Kobe wouldn’t have become a 5-time champion and the most hardworking player of the century without the humility to see where he went wrong.
His post-game response to reporters was a perfect illustration of how a leader can and should take the blame when it’s their fault:
“You let him do his job, you go about your business. But he was right, I totally broke the offense. but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started.”
“Because what we were doing just wasn’t working so I tried to kickstart it, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s my responsibility. When it works out, great. And when it doesn’t, you take the criticism for it.”