During Phil Jackson's coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers for 11 seasons, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant's relationship was reported to have its ups and downs. Currently, the NBA's most successful coach, Jackson led the Lakers and Bryant to five NBA Championships. Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant apparently did not get along for the majority of the former's time with the Lakers, while some reports also blame the head coach for Bryant's feud with Shaquille O'Neal.
The problems between Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant reportedly existed when the duo, along with Shaquille O'Neal, won three NBA Championships. Jackson had written about the team's 2003-04 campaign in The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, which did not portray Kobe Bryant in a flattering light. ESPN's conversations with Jackson also show that the coach revealed that while Bryant was his 'friend', he could often 'feel his hatred'.
He has referred to Bryant as 'uncoachable', which Jackson thought must have angered Bryant. Jackson revealed that Bryant wanted more freedom as well as more discipline. However, he added that this kind of 'friction' was normal.
When Jackson returned to the Lakers for the second time, he 'worked it all out' with Bryant. He gave him more freedom while Bryant stayed in the triangle. He then added that Bryant was an intelligent player and a great player.
Bryant had also talked about Jackson in a 2016 interview, stating that he knew the coach was trying to 'integrate himself with Shaq'. The Lakers legend felt that Jackson taking shots at him in front of his press without talking to him first was an insult to his intelligence and wanted Jackson to come to him. Bryant also discussed Jackson manipulating the media against him and did not want to deal with it anymore.
However, he added that this was their dynamic during the team's first three championships. That time, they played together but had no interaction with each other. Bryant wanted to have more leeway and was unhappy that Jackson thought he was selfish.
As per Bryant, he could have moved to another team and averaged 35 points per game but chose the Lakers to win more championships. Bryant added that the whole situation was 'very maddening'.
During a 2016 interview, Jackson discussed Bryant putting on a show for Michael Jordan. Jordan was in the stands and Jackson had told his coaches that Bryant was showing him who he is. While talking to Real Sports, he revealed that he was right and that part about Kobe Bryant irritated him. Jackson stated that the game needed to be respected and he felt Bryant sometimes went off the edge to show someone how good he was.
There were also rumours that Jackson was the one who began the Bryant-O'Neal feud. Robert Horry, who played for the Lakers, had stated that Jackson had indeed started the feud. After practice, Jackson used to talk wrong things about each other to both of them. Horry said that the team could not believe it as both of them were friendly the last time they saw each other.
As per Horry, Jackson apparently needed some kind of 'conflict' in the team. Jackson's interference was also reported to be a reason why his relationship with Bryant soured. After Kobe Bryant's tragic death in January, Jackson had talked to Bleacher Report about his relationship with Bryant. He had stated that Bryant was a 'chosen one' and was special to many people. Jackson believed that their relationship as a coach and player 'transcended the norm'.