The new book by Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, answers a ton of questions about the past 30 years of professional basketball. It gives us a bit of insight into Phil Jackson's coaching career, including the fact that he once dreamt about spanking Kobe Bryant.
It's not in a masochistic way or anything creepy; it's just Jackson reminiscing about the early days of coaching Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant before the Los Angeles Lakers picked up the first of three championships together.
ESPN got its hands on an excerpt from Jackson's book, which is set for release on May 21 and explains the tribulations of coaching a player like Bryant and getting him to fit into a system.
It was the Lakers' worst loss of the season, smack dab in the middle of a cold patch for the Lakers, in which the team lost four out of five games.
"You can't be a selfish player and make this offense work for the team's good. Period." When I opened the floor to comments, there was complete silence, and I was about to adjourn the meeting when Shaq spoke up. He got right to the point, saying, "I think Kobe is playing too selfishly for us to win." That got everyone fired up. Some of the players nodded in support of Shaq, including Rick Fox, who said, "How many times have we been through this?" No one in that room came to Kobe's defense. I asked him if he had anything to say. Kobe finally addressed the group, and in a calm, quiet voice he said he cared about everyone and just wanted to be part of a winning team.
I wasn't pleased with the meeting. I worried that having everyone's complaints on the table without any resolution would have a negative effect on team harmony. In the days that followed, we lost four out of five games, including a 105-81 "massacre" by the Spurs in the Alamodome. One night that week I had a dream about spanking Kobe and giving Shaq a smack. "Shaq needs and Kobe wants -- the mystery of the Lakers," I wrote in my journal.
Weird, sure. But more than anything, there's a huge revelation into the Lakers' early troubles, and that's just two paragraphs of material.
Jackson goes on to run down how he was able to resolve the situation, turn Shaq into more of a leader and get Kobe to sign on as more of a follower throughout the season.
The Lakers won 27 of their next 28 games.
This addresses one of the most important issues of the past 15 years in the NBA that was never really resolved.
Bryant was always accused of being an outsider in the Lakers' locker room as a young player, while Shaq was accused of not doing enough to welcome him in as a part of the team.
To hear Jackson tell the story, both are true and had an impact on the way the team came together.
Throughout the book, there are interesting observations and anecdotes from Jackson, most notably the first meeting between Michael Jordan and Bryant. It was a bit awkward, to say the least.
Jackson went into that in his recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Jackson's new book is sure to delve deep into the psyche of Kobe and Jordan, along with how he handled the two players differently.
He finally does put to rest the debate that never should have started in the first place, calling Jordan a better leader, shooter and defender than Bryant.
It seems that Jackson is able to paint Kobe in a positive light, all while pointing out his flaws and giving Jordan the edge as a player.
There's no doubt that it seems like a good read for the summer.
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