In the world of , few men were as competitive as Michael Jordan. , however, came pretty close. The Lakers legend wanted to be just like Mike, and that practice included a refusal to back down from any challenge. And while that inner fire helped Kobe become an all-time great, things didn’t always work out as planned.
Just ask Phil Jackson about that.
During their time together, the Zen Master hatched a plan to try and bring Bryant out of his shell and focus on collective success rather than individual greatness. Jackson hoped that meeting with His Airness, who obviously knew a thing or two about winning, would help the young guard change his mindset.
Kobe, of course, had a different idea.
On the sidelines, to get the best out of his players. When it came to Kobe Bryant, though, the coach kept things rather normal.
“I admired Kobe’s ambition,” Jackson explained in an excerpt of his book, , shared by . “But I also felt that he needed to break out of his protective chrysalis if he wanted to win the ten rings he told his teammates he was shooting for. Obviously, basketball isn’t an individual sport. To achieve greatness, you must rely on the good offices of others. But Kobe had yet to reach out to his teammates and try to get to know them. Instead of spending time with them after games, he usually went back to his hotel room to study tapes or chat with his high-school friends on the phone.”
The Zen Master knew that Bryant idolized Michael Jordan and, with that in mind, pulled an ace out of his sleeve. Perhaps His Airness could show Kobe the error of his ways.
“When we played in Chicago that season, I orchestrated a meeting between the two stars, thinking that Michael might help shift Kobe’s attitude toward selfless teamwork,” the bench boss explained. Bryant, however, wasn’t in the mood for a friendly chat.
After they shook hands, the first words out of Kobe’s mouth were, ‘You know I can kick your ass one on one,'” Jackson concluded.
As you might expect, Kobe didn’t really get the message during that meeting with His Airness. Later during that (1999-2000) season, though, things reached a critical mass.
After some disappointing results, Jackson ran a film session and asked his team why the triangle offense was falling flat. Following a bit of uncomfortable silence, Shaquille O’Neal spoke up and said that Bryant was being selfish.
While results didn’t initially improve, the coach managed to get through to both players. He told Shaq that he needed to inspire the team and got tough on Bryant, saying that the guard could leave LA if he didn’t want to be a part of the group. Jackson also tapped into Kobe’s desire for greatness, telling him that he couldn’t be a captain if he didn’t earn the respect of others.
Eventually, things clicked. The Lakers went on an incredible run after the all-star break and ended up winning 67 regular season games en route to a title. From there, the rest was history.
And, to be clear, Kobe never lost his competitive edge. He did, however, use it to take teammates to the top with him. The guard never let himself slip, but he would i and do what he could to build a bond in pursuit of mutual success.
That’s part of the reason why he’s considered an NBA legend.