Phil Jackson tabs Kobe Bryant as “very sensitive” to criticism

The defining legacy surrounding Kobe Bryant will likely entail the following qualities that sound all too familiar. His uncompromising competitiveness. His clutch scoring. His ability to play through injuries.

But underneath such alpha male traits lies a player with plenty of insecurities, according to former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Namely, that Bryant doesn’t always take kindly to criticism.

“He’s very sensitive,” Jackson said Wednesday to ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd. “I had to be really careful in criticizing him. I learned immediately as I started to deal with him as a young man how sensitive he was in particular if it was done in a group setting. My criticism was best done if it was in my office or alone.”

Bryant has conceded feeling such a way in recent seasons. The Lakers star acknowledged earlier this season in a tweet that he felt “self doubt” on whether the team could turn around its struggles. Immediately after he suffered a season-ending left Achilles tendon, Bryant admitted that “it’s pissing me off” on the inevitable skepticism on whether he could return and still play at an elite level. Bryant also scoffed at Jackson’s favoring Michael Jordan over him revealed in his latest memoir “Eleven Rings.”


It may have tested their relationship during Bryant’s tumultuous years with Shaquille O’Neal or when Jackson described Bryant as “uncoachable” in his book, “The Last Season.” But it eventually evolved where the two had a more formidable relationship during Jackson’s second run from 2005 to 2011 where they won two more NBA championships. Bryant also revealed in Jackson’s book that “90 percent” of his leadership approach stems from Jackson’s influence.

“It’s not just a basketball way of leadership, but a philosophy of how to live,” Bryant said as an interview for the book. “Being present and enjoying each moment as it comes. Letting my children develop at their own pace and not trying to force them into doing something they’re not really comfortable with, but just nurturing and guiding them along. I learned that all from Phil.”


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