Coaching legend Phil Jackson sat down with his former player, Rick Fox, for an interview on NBA TV. Though he weighed in on numerous topics, fans are usually most interested in Jackson's thoughts on his longtime player-slash-"frenemy," Kobe Bryant.
Bryant has remained in the headlines this season despite playing in only six games. His rehab—first from an Achilles injury, then from a fractured tibial plateau—has made daily headlines in Los Angeles. He hadn't even made it back from the first injury before the Lakers signed him to an enormous two-year, $48 million contract extension.
So what does Bryant's former coach—the man on the bench for all five of Bryant's titles—say about the 35-year-old star shooting guard's current predicament?
Per NBA TV's Twitter account and the Orange County Register's Bill Occam:
On NBA TV, Phil Jackson says he agreed with extending Kobe for two years but that the Lakers “paid him more than I would have gone for.“— Bill Oram (@bill_oram) January 30, 2014
That seems like a fair, nuanced assessment of the Kobe conundrum. After all, few NBA experts would argue that two years and $48 million is a fair price for a player of Bryant's age. The Lakers didn't so much negotiate with Bryant as they opened their wallets as a "thank you" to a franchise legend.
It's no secret that Bryant and Jackson have had a tumultuous relationship over the years. The coach left the team after the Lakers lost in the 2004 NBA Finals, only to return to the Lakers' bench one season later.
Bryant spoke of their communication problems with Yahoo's Graham Bensinger (as relayed by NBC Sports' Kurt Helin) in 2012:
I said, ‘Phil, if you want me to do something, just tell me.’ He kind of likes subtly slipping messages in there. Where, for me, it’s like just tell me what it is you want. Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to backdoor in there.
Jackson has often been extremely frank at times in his opinions of Bryant. In his memoir, "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success," Jackson compared Bryant to another of Jackson's former players, Michael Jordan, and made a point to stress Jordan's superiority as a player, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan.
But few players know Bryant better than his former coach. Jackson still believes Bryant can play, he just doesn't think Bryant's a $48 million man anymore.