Phil Jackson knew Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan both needed to be more team-oriented at times and called on Michael Jordan to convince Bryant of that
As The Last Dance has shown us so far, Phil Jackson saw immense value in his star player becoming more selfless on the offensive end of the floor. Coaching the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan wasn’t always an easy assignment.
Jackson’s implementation of the triangle offense was something he had to convince Jordan to get on board with at first. Jordan, by far the best player on his team, didn’t think the triangle would afford him the proper opportunity to utilize his skill-set, as he made clear in the first few episodes of TLD.
Of course, the triangle would work well for the Chicago Bulls and was the system that gained them six titles in the 90s. It afforded Jordan’s teammates the ability to shine. This, therefore, spread out the offense, got everyone in a rhythm, and gave Jordan more space for isolation play when the shots mattered the most.
Jackson struggled to get Bryant to understand some of the same things that Jordan didn’t buy into at first, and in the 1999-00 season had Jordan come to talk to Bryant about not taking over games too early.
“I want you to talk to Kobe a little bit, he tends to take over a game, you know, at a certain time in the game, and I think if you convince him to just wait, just be patient, allow the game to kind of come to him when it’s necceasray for him to do some things,” Jackson said he asked of Jordan when he came to a Lakers game in 2000.
Jordan and Bryant were both almost always the best player on the floor when they played, but not involving those around them could lead to too much defensive attention and predictability. Leaning on the options around them was key, even if it felt it would be a detriment to their individual success.
Of course, Jordan and Bryant would take the big shots, but Jackson’s perspective and encouragement to be more team-oriented allowed both Bryant and Jordan to take things to the next level.
This meeting in the 2000 season would be the first of many instances where Jordan served as a big brother and a mentor for Bryant, who tragically passed away earlier this year.