Why Kobe Bryant Still Needs Phil Jackson

In his self-titled IMAX film, Michael Jordan spoke of how Phil Jackson had helped not only his understanding of the game but his understanding of life. The two were not mutually exclusive, however. Jordan credited Phil’s ability to apply his Zen philosophy to the game of basketball with helping him become a master of the moment and, ultimately, a master of the game.

As Phil himself explained, “Michael so embraced this, and I think that was the beauty in his game—that he had all these abilities to adjust and not force his own predetermined idea.”

It was Michael’s ability to seize the moment, to slow it down as he would say, that ultimately set him apart from every other player, dead or alive, when the games mattered most.

The recent NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics clarified two things about Kobe Bryant: (1) that he is the current king of the NBA; and (2) that he can still get better.

Game 7, in particular, was a testament to his ability to excel in other facets of play when his shot isn’t falling. But while he racked up rebounds and stepped it up on the defensive end, Kobe didn’t stop shooting.

He kept forcing up shots, trying to do everything he could to win the game. He appeared out of rhythm offensively, moving as though the game had sped up for him and making poor decisions as a result. As Phil would say following the win, “He was a little bit too animated.”

And this was happening in the biggest game of his life, the culminating climax of everything he had worked toward until then. To his credit, Kobe still managed to do a lot of good things out there on the court, including making a conscious effort to get to the line in the 4th quarter while Boston’s energy began to fade. Kobe's determination and willingness to do whatever it takes to win should never be questioned.

But despite his 15 rebounds and timely fr...

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