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Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant Like 'A Son' to Him

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Head coach Phil Jackson talks to Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during their game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 4, 2013

Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach and frequent sound bite producer Phil Jackson has described Kobe Bryant as many things over the years—not all of them flattering.

But in an interview with Seth Davis of CampusInsiders.com, Jackson moved away from terms like "uncoachable" and "narcissist," instead opting for a more familial label for Bryant.

Per Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, Jackson said: "I love Kobe Bryant. I consider him like my son."

If Jackson is serious—and based on the tone of the interview, he certainly seems to be—he's got a pretty unusual take on the parent-child relationship. I suppose some father-son interactions include a little head-butting, but Jackson and Bryant could hardly stand one another for years at at time.

2004:  Head Coach Phil Jackson has a few words for Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers circa 2004. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Zen Master struggled to control the impetuous Bryant during his early seasons with the Lakers and spent his first hiatus from the team ripping his former player to shreds in The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, a memoir Jackson penned about the 2003-04 season.

Per the Associated Press via USA Today:

Jackson wrote he became so frustrated with Bryant that he told general manager Mitch Kupchak in January, "I won't coach this team next year if he is still here. He won't listen to anyone. I've had it with this kid."

Apparently, Jackson's opinion changed enough to allow him to return to the team in 2006 for two more championship runs.

There's no question that Bryant's demeanor has always made him a difficult personality to manage, so it's hardly surprising that Jackson reached his breaking point more than once. Now, though, the aging coach seems to have found some perspective.

Per Medina, Jackson later told Davis: "I consider him as someone who I had a tense relationship with, but something that has mellowed through the course of the years.”

I guess time (and a handful of championship rings) really can heal all wounds.


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