Call this the “acceptance” stage of Kobe Bryant’s grief.
In a story by ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin, Bryant—during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show—expressed his congratulations to Phil Jackson on his new gig: president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks.
Then he said this:
I wasn't surprised by it. He mentioned that that was likely to happen and I just wished him all the best. Like I said, there's only but so much meditation a person can do all day. You know what I mean? At some point you got to get up and do something.
Zing! Zeng? Zing.
Let’s be real for a second: Even if Kobe’s assessment were true, and PJax actually had been doing literally nothing more than eating, breathing and meditating since retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers three seasons ago, he’s earned the right to do that.
He's earned the right to mow his lawn in nothing but a straw hat, if he wants.
But while Kobe’s done his best to be the bigger person, such polite airs mask a deeper resentment that’s managed to sneak through on more than one occasion. Like, say, in this recent story from CBS New York:
You know how I feel about Phil. I have so much admiration for him, and respect, and have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand (Jackson not getting a job in LA) happening twice. It would be tough. I don’t really get it.
L.A.’s dynasty era is long gone—at least for now. Kobe understands that. Heck, he probably came to grips with it a long time ago. The straw that broke the camel’s back, the cruelest cut of all—whatever your metaphor, Phil taking the Knicks job was, well, the final nail in the coffin.
Kobe wants that sixth ring—and not necessarily on the timetable his front office has in mind, either. From McMenamin:
The good news: The Lakers will enter the summer with oodles of cap space—albeit compromised somewhat by Kobe’s recent two-year, $48.5 million extension—and a likely lottery draft pick to accelerate the rebuild process.
The biggest X-factor, however, will be whether Kobe can come back as a passable facsimile of his former self.
You know, the guy that helped get Phil five of those rings.