The Los Angeles Lakers managed to win three straight NBA titles at the turn of the millennium, this despite very public warring between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as Bryant and his head coach Phil Jackson.
The Zen Master says he could sense Kobe’s animosity towards him, but the two men’s relationship improved markedly over time, resulting in a couple of more championship rings.
Per GQ and ESPN:
GQ: When this was happening, did you actively dislike him? […] Kobe Bryant: “Yeah. ( pause) Yeah. I was like, ‘Fuck him. I’m out here busting my ass. I’m killing myself.’ And it became insulting. Because I chose to extend my deal with the Lakers to play with Shaquille O’ Neal and win championships. I knew what I could have done individually. I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game. I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish. It was very, very maddening.”
In an interview in GQ, Kobe didn’t have anything nice to say about you. In fact, he said that he disliked you. Your reaction?
Jackson: “Ah, my good friend Kobe Bryant. … Yes, quite often I could feel his hatred. I’m sure Kobe was pissed when I wrote in ‘The Last Season’ that he was uncoachable. And, yes, we were often at loggerheads. He wanted more freedom and I wanted him to be more disciplined. This is a normal source of friction thing between coaches and players on just about every level of competition. But when I came back for my second stint with the Lakers, Kobe and I worked it all out. I gave him more of a license to do his thing, as long as it stayed within the overall context of the triangle. And we did win two more championships. Anyway, I’ve always seen Kobe as a truly great player, an intelligent guy and a remarkable person.”