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.”


Phil Jackson on the Lakers’ struggles: “I know what they need”

Phil Jackson chooses Bill Russell over Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant as greatest

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart doubts Phil Jackson doesn’t want to coach again

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at

  • LakerTom

    I think it’s kind of ironic that Phil has no compunction about what he says about former players in his books or in interviews to promote his book. Same old Phil. It’s this kind of baggage that has made Phil a kind of rebel and outcast to many in the coaching world. I also think it was a major reason why the Lakers front office passed on bringing him back for a third round. I think they feared it would very well end up being a third strike. Phil has never worried much about burning bridges or relationships but I think his prior baggage with Dr. Buss and Jim Buss were likely a major reason the Lakers spurned him for Mike D’Antoni.

    • Mark Medina

      Laker Tom – Good points. I also think you have to weigh that Jerry Buss had that nostalgic want to restore Showtime and he saw Steve Nash & Mike D’Antoni as perfect. The Lakers also knew that Jerry was in his final days so there was a concern that if Phil was hired as “just a coach” he could then be set up to have a larger role (thanks to Jeanie) where he’d have more influence within the front office. Jerry and Jim didn’t want that.

      • LakerTom

        Great point, Mark. I think you are right about the Steve Nash connection. I’ve come to the conclusion that when Mitch was talking about Mike being a better fit for the Lakers personnel, he was likely talking about Nash and the magic they had together. I hope Steve can come back strong this year and
        next and help mitigate the high cost in picks and salary we paid for his services. It will be a challenge for sure.

        I still think our guard rotation next year should continue
        with Kobe playing point and Steve playing shooting guard. The switching of their roles makes so much sense. It’s one thing to ask Kobe to play more team ball but it’s an entirely different proposition if you want to take the ball out of his hands, as D’Antoni and Nash discovered last year. It’s the perfect way for both HOF players to end their careers.