Bashing Kobe: Excerpts from “The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul” by Phil Jackson

on 03 1, 2010

I received the book “The Last Season:  A Team in Search of Its Soul” by Phil Jackson for Christmas soon after it was released.  Well, I guess it wasn’t the last season, eh Phil?  Anyways, I re-read it, and here are some great Kobe-related excerpts from the book Phil Jackson wrote about the 2004 Lakers team that lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals.  Phil absolutely shreds Kobe, throwing him under the bus on many occasions, and revealing a lot.  It’s amazing that these two still get along to this day.  Here we go:

“I was at a motel in Williston, North Dakota, when the call came from Mitch. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, telling me about Kobe and the rape allegations in Colorado.  Was I surprised?  Yes, but not entirely.  Kobe can be consumed with surprising anger, which he’s displayed toward me and toward his teammates.”

“To be completely fair, there were a couple things I did over the years to alienate Kobe.  The most glaring example was the interview I gave in 2001 to Rick Telander, a writer I knew in Chicago.  Rick asked if I believed Kobe was the heir apparent to Michael Jordan.  Assuming, naively in retrospect, that a conversation after the official interview was off the record, I mentioned to Rick that I had been told that in high school Kobe “sabotaged” games to keep them close enough for him to dominate at the end.  Needless to say, the quotes appeared verbatim in Rick’s story, sparking a major uproar. (Kobe has never forgiven me.  Last Spring, during a particularly acrimonious team meeting, Rick Fox complained to Kobe and Shaq. “The thing that hurts us about this season,” Fox said, “is that both of you have acted like you’re apart from us, and that we’re not any good.  We have won championships for each other, sacrificing, and all of a sudden, you turn your backs on us.”  Shaq, clearly affected, began to respond when Kobe cut him off.  “Quit your crying,” Kobe said.  I then jumped in.  “Kobe, you’re as much to blame as Shaq is, if not more.” “You’re the one who should f***ing talk,” he said.  “You said I sabotaged games.”

“From what I understand, the defining characteristic of Kobe’s childhood was his anger”

“I’m not going to take any shit from Shaq this year,” Kobe blurted out.  “If he starts saying things in the press, I’ll fire back.  I’m not afraid to go up against him.  I’ve had it.”

“Since the charges were made, Kobe has been treated remarkably well by the Lakers organization and the fans.  He gave his press conference at Staples with our blessing, and we have agree–once we attained permission from the league to make sure the funds wouldn’t be applied to the salary cap–to cover a percentage of his private plane expenses to and from Colorado for court hearings.  This will cost thousands of dollars.  Kobe was unhappy with the type of plane that was selected; he wanted one with higher status.  He should feel fortunate he’s not footing the whole bill himself.”

Kobe to the press:  “I definitely don’t need advice on how to play my game,” he said “I know how to play my guard spot.  He can worry about the low post”

“Why don’t the two get along?  I have my theories, one of which is that Shaquille is making the type of money, about $25 million a year, that Kobe will never earn due to the changes in the league’s collective bargaining agreement.  No matter how many MVP trophies Kobe might collect in the decade ahead, there is nothing he can do about this discrepancy.  In fact, the word I got was that Kobe was the only player in the entire league who voted against the agreement because of the cap it put on salaries.”

“This was another example of the basic difference between him and Kobe.  Ask Shaq to do something and he’ll say:  “No, I don’t want to do that.”  But after a little pouting, he will do it.  Ask Kobe, and he’ll say “okay,” and then he will do whatever he wants.”

“Kobe’s defense, to be accurate, has faltered in recent years, despite his presence on the league’s all-defensive team.  The voters have been seduced by his remarkable athleticism and spectacular steals, but he hasn’t played sound, fundamental defense.  Mesmerized by the ball, he’s gambled too frequently, putting us out of position, forcing rotations that leave a man wide open, and doesn’t keep his feet on the ground.”

“After the gun sounded, Kobe went over to Devean, berating him for not calling timeout when the play broke down.  Kobe was right but he was wrong to reprimand his teammate on the court, in front of the crowd and the cameras.”

“Worse yet, Kobe and I had gotten into it earlier in the game after he threw a poor pass that Anthony stole, resulting in a Denver layup.  “You can’t make that pass,’ I told Kobe when he came off the floor in the next timeout.  “Well, you better teach those motherf***ers how to run the offense,” he said.  I sat him down on the spot.  “Watch your mouth,” I said.

A non Kobe related excerpt, but very entertaining:

“I’m generally not a big believer in team meetings, which rarely produce any earth-shattering changes.  I can’t recall a single instance when I felt better afterward.  I did hear of one meeting that made quite an impression on players.  Disgusted with his team’s performance during a West Coast Trip, Jack McMahon, who coached the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960s, called a meeting in the hotel to restore order.  The players dreaded it, but according to my former Knicks teammate, Jerry Lucas, they were greeted with two cases of beer, four quarts of whiskey, and three hookers.  “Guys, you figure this out,” McMahon said before leaving the room.  The Royals figured it out, all right, going on a long winning streak.”

“When I asked Kobe to stop his habit of screaming at his teammates on the court because it creates insecurity, he came right back at me.  “That’s bullshit,” he said.  “You’re the one that’s causing them to be anxious. They’re afraid to make a mistake.”

“When I arrived, waiting for me was a chicken Caesar salad and the printout of a story claiming Kobe hit on a room service attendant in Portland.  We were waiting for stories like this to surface.  The woman, according to the article, refused the overture, saying that Kobe accepted the rejection “like a gentleman.”  This was bound to create trouble at the Bryant home in Newport Beach.”

“Earlier this week at El Segundo there was an incident at practice.  On the way to the court, I asked Kobe, still nursing a sore shoulder, if he was up to doing a little running.  Sure, he responded, as soon as he finished his treatment.  Almost an hour went by, and there was no Kobe sighting.  Finally, with an ice pack on his shoulder, he took a seat on the sideline.  It began to dawn on me that contrary to what he had told me, Kobe had no intention of running.  After practice I followed Kobe to the training room, asking him why he lied to me.  He was being sarcastic, he said.  Wrong answer.  I told him that he needed to treat me with respect, not sarcasm.  I turned and walked away, heading to the coaches’ locker room.  A minute later I heard him cursing in the training room in front of the players, though I couldn’t make out the exact words….Now I was the one who was angry.  I went upstairs to see Mitch in his office.  Wasting no time, I went off on a tirade about the need to deal Kobe before the trading deadline in mid-February.  “I won’t coach this team next year if he is still here,” I said emphatically.  “He won’t listen to anyone.  I’ve had it with this kid.”  My monologue-Mitch barely said a word at first-reminded me of similar eruption in the middle of my first year when I presented what I thought was a very logical argument for trading Kobe at that time.  “Everyone says what a mature person this kid is,” I said.  “He’s not mature at all.”  The deal I had in mind was Kobe to Phoenix for Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion.”

“At practice the day before Kobe, who told Vitti that his finger hadn’t healed sufficiently for him to play in the Miami game, was taking a few shots left-handed when I asked him not to be a distraction.  I needed to work with the players who would be suiting up.  “Distraction,” he said, mockingly, unable to resist taking one more shot.  A few hours later, during dinner in Key Biscayne with the staff, Vitti told us that Kobe has been threatening again to opt out of his contract, vowing “to take Slava with me.”  Slava? Was this an indication of Kobe’s being totally out of touch with reality?  If Kobe was interested in taking along a player who would defer to him, Slava Medvedenko was the worst choice imaginable.  He hasn’t passed up a shot since November.”

“Strangely enough, despite the well-documented squabbles, I can recall only one altercation during my four and a half years here, in February 2002, between Kobe and Samaki Walker, that left Samaki with a swollen eye.”

“We were playing solid team ball, a rarity this season, although, as usual, Kobe seemed intent on taking over.  “Get me the f***ing ball,” he said on his way to the bench, a demand Kobe had never verbalized.  I smiled, didn’t say a word, and went to chart a play on the clipboard.  I sometimes think Kobe is so addicted to being in control that he would rather shoot the ball when guarded, or even double-teamed, than dish it to an open teammate.

“They’re making you get in your attack mode,” I told him when he came off the floor during a timeout late in the game.  “You’re going to have to pass the ball.  They’re not calling the fouls for you.”  He was in no mood to back down. “I’m going to f***ing crush them,” he said. “I just haven’t found my shooting yet.”

This time, in a strange twist, he’s being crucified for taking too few shots:  only one, unbelievably enough, in the first half of Sunday’s game in Sacramento, which we lost by seventeen points, ruining, in all likelihood, any chance to win our division.  He finished with eight points, his lowest total ever in a game in which he played at least forty minutes.  The theory being tossed around is that Kobe, stung by criticism for his shot selection in recent games, decided to show the Lakers how stagnant the offense can become when he doesn’t assert himself.  “I don’t know how we can forgive him,” one anonymous teammate was quoted as saying in today’s Times….Today at practice, Kobe went from player to player, shoving the article with the anonymous quote in their faces.  I have rarely seen him that incensed.  “Did you say this?” he demanded of each player.  Later, during a team gathering, he pursued the interrogation. “Right here and right now,” he said, raising his voice, “I want to know who said this shit.”  Nobody said a word, until Karl finally broke the silence.  “Obviously, Kobe, no one said it or no one wants to admit they said it,” Karl said.  “You’ve just got to let it go now.”  Karl and Kobe, who have become buddies, launched into a shouting match that I had to stop.

“Are you feeling like you’re going to come back next year?” Jeanie asked me.  “Well, not if Kobe Bryant is on this team next year,” I told her.  “He’s too complex a person.  I don’t need this.”

“I asked Kobe today about Hamilton.  The two played high school ball against each other in Pennsylvania.  “I’ve been kicking his ass for ten years,” he said.”

“Finally it was Kobe’s turn.  “You know how much I hate this f***ing offense,” Kobe said.

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This is why I don’t like Kobe Bryant, and never will.  He’s a punk.

“I’m a horse, Kobe ratted me out, that’s why I’m getting divorced…Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.”