ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported Jackson has been in contact with Bryant recently to offer his congratulations but is "unable" to leave his Montana ranch to be in Los Angeles. The reasoning behind Jackson's absence is unclear.
Jackson later posted a tweet, congratulating Bryant ahead of the ceremony, but did not comment on his reported absence:
Phil Jackson @PhilJackson11
Congratulations Kobe Bryant! Hail Momba, too. Two Jersey’s retired is one way to measure your impact for the Lakers. The GOAT measure is:🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆2017-12-18 16:32:27
Jackson coached Bryant to five NBA championships during his two stints with the Lakers (1999-2004, 2005-2011). The two famously clashed during Jackson's first tenure—criticism of Bryant was rampant in the coach's 2004 book The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul—but the pair found a mutual understanding and admiration in his second.
"'F--k him. I'm out here busting my ass. I'm killing myself,'" Bryant told GQ in 2015 of his mindset toward Jackson during their first run together.
"And it became insulting. Because I chose to extend my deal with the Lakers to play with Shaquille O'Neal and win championships. I knew what I could have done individually. I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game. I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish. It was very, very maddening."
The growth of their relationship has been evident via public comments and their own admissions of being at fault. Bryant said in October he would want Jackson or Michael Jordan to be his Hall of Fame presenter.
"In terms of who might present, for me it's two people: Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson. They've been the greatest mentors, not only in my career as an athlete, but also as a person. And what I might say is just a lot of thank yous. 'Cause I've had a lotta help along the way. A lotta, lotta help," Bryant told Liz Levy of Complex.
Jackson has not made any basketball-related appearances since he was ousted as the New York Knicks president in June.
The controversial tenure ended amid controversy after the coach-turned-executive had a falling out with the Knicks' top two starts, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Anthony was later traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Knicks worked behind the scenes to mend all hurt feelings with Porzingis.
The Lakers will retire Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys Monday night as part of a ceremony honoring him before their game with the Golden State Warriors. Bryant won five NBA championships, one MVP and was named to 18 All-Star Games in his 20-year career with the franchise.