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Phil Jackson calls out Kobe then takes it back

Updated on January 5, 2011

Two of a Kind

A Couple of Characters
A Couple of Characters | Source

It's About Character

It had been less than half an hour after the Lakers had won game 7 and their 16th title when I discovered my 9 year old son in his bedroom, crying. I wasn't exactly sure what to say to him because I felt like doing the same. Instead he tried to console himself and me by expressing that he would be a Celtic one day and give "us" another championship. Naturally, I was supportive of his vision quest. He is my son after all and I am a big dreamer as well.

Then it hit me. What was our only consolation had become clear. The Lakers had beaten us. Sure we didn't have Perk on the floor that night and Pau didn't get called for traveling when the replay shows he did, but there was no excuse or argument or debate to be made that would change that. So I looked into my son's eyes and said to him with all sincerity. "It's about character. I love my team because I like who they are. The Lakers may have won, but who are their fans rooting for?"

Last night Phil Jackson wasn't himself. He was blunt and brutally honest. Maybe he was venting. Maybe it was a Freudian slip. Regardless, most of us recognize the truth when we hear it.

"We get behind early on in the third quarter on some stupid plays -- poor passing, poor transition defense -- and then Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one and that takes the rest of the guys out as a consequence," Lakers coach Phil Jackson articulated after the game.

At that moment it appeared that Phil was actually speaking his mind instead of trying to trick the minds of others. As we all know when the going gets tough and the Lakers struggle, Kobe takes matters into his own hands and kills their offensive flow and his teammates become spectators.

Today Phil ate his words, or clarified them by claiming that he meant to say "crank it up, not screw it up." Phil also stated last night, that getting the ball into their bigs was their strength. However, today Phil expressed that Kobe's actions are how they win basketball games and the only issue he had was that he screwed it up, oh sorry, I mean cranked it up in the third quarter as opposed to doing it in the fourth. The same style of play Phil was critical of on the previous evening, which consists of Kobe controlling the action by forcing the majority of the shots, is their "fourth quarter action" and how they win ballgames.

Kobe wasn't himself either. The same Kobe that Phil described in his book as "uncoachable". The same Kobe that feuded with Shaq, which in all likelihood led to Phil being let go, sorry not offered a new contract, and Shaq demanding to be traded. The same Kobe that publicly expressed his outrage when Mitch Kupchak didn't trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. The same Kobe that demanded he be traded because he wasn't surrounded with enough talent to win a championship and then claimed he wanted to be a Laker for life a day later. The same Kobe that was accused of rape by a young woman in Eagle, Colorado and tried to excuse his behavior by throwing Shaq under a bus when he accused Shaq of his own infidelities. The same Kobe who's former housekeeper sued him for alleged abuse. The same Kobe who's first response to the media when asked how he felt about winning his 5th title, was "I got one more than Shaq." The "Black Mamba" should be called the "Big Gloater". Never has a man so admired done so little to deserve it. Like Phil, Kobe was out of character today. He actually took the high road. For once, he appeared loyal to someone other than himself and concurred with Phil's comments.

Phil and Kobe can't say what they really think because deep down they know they need each other to win. Instead they must swallow their pride and compromise themselves because they are both willing to do so if it means winning. They may have both gone on record as saying they have mended their differences, but to say otherwise would just seem too hypocritical of them. Kobe's a winner, but is he a good teammate and someone we should admire? Phil has the most rings, but when you examine the players he has coached, one can question if his coaching made the difference, and those rings may lose a little bit of their luster.

Mitch Daniels expressed, "A man's stature is not measured in inches. It is measured in character." Like I told my son, "It's about character."



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