Months before his retirement in April 2016, Kobe Bryant appeared on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, where he discussed his relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson. While Jackson and Bryant won five NBA championships for the Lakers, they were known to have a tense relationship, especially during Jackson's first stint with the Lakers. Both Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson have called each other out multiple times, though their relationship was better by the time Bryant retired.
Phil Jackson was coaching a team which consisted of Kobe Byant, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Though O'Neal ended up leaving the team, Phil Jackson was concerned about managing all the egos together. During one of his podcasts, analyst Bill Simmons stated that Jackson grew extremely concerned about the team's psyche over time. He then hired a therapist who specialised in narcissism to try and understand the team better.
Along with therapy, Jackson reportedly gave the players books to read and made them meditate. Before Jackson hired the therapist, he stated that he had become conditioned to find faults with Bryant after everything they had gone through together. Jackson once claimed that Bryant was late, and wanted him to 'get with the rest of the world' and sync his watch. However, Jackson was reportedly the one whose watch was faster. The incident prompted Jackson to hire the therapist in the Los Angeles public school system, who he consulted the entire season. However, Payton did not work in the triangle, and O'Neal was traded to Miami Heat after the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.
Bensinger asked Bryant about Phil Jackson's memoir The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, in which the head coach had stated that he would not return if Bryant continued playing for the Lakers. Though Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson later mended their relationship, Bensinger asked Bryant what was the reason behind Jackson's words. As per Bryant, one of the problems Jackson faced was his dynamic with Shaquille O'Neal. Jackson had to manage their dynamic, which meant keeping the five-time NBA champion at an arm's distance so he could be close to O'Neal. Bryant also added that both of them were extremely stubborn, which made it difficult for Jackson to reach him.
Bryant was vocal about Jackson telling him what was expected directly, rather than circle around the point and sending a subtle message. The Lakers legend felt that Jackson taking shots at him in front of the press without talking to him first was an insult to his intelligence and he wanted Jackson to come to him first. Bensinger then brought up Jackson visiting a therapist so he could deal with the team dynamic. Bryant responded with a smile, stating that he simply wanted Jackson to just tell him.
Jackson's The Last Season portrayed Bryant in an unflattering light, pointing out the problems in their dynamic. ESPN's conversations with Jackson show that the coach thought Bryant was his 'friend', but he could often 'feel his hatred'. He referred to Bryant as 'uncoachable', which Jackson believed must have angered Bryant. Jackson added that Bryant wanted more freedom as a player, while he wanted him to be disciplined. However, Jackson said that this kind of 'friction' was normal.