Phil Jackson Reflects on Kobe Bryant After His Death: 'Kobe Was a Chosen One'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant, left, and Phil Jackson chat at the unveiling of Shaquille O'Neal's statue in front of Staples Center, Friday, March 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Kobe Bryant's former head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson, released a statement Sunday after Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash.

"The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones," Jackson said, per B/R's Howard Beck. "Kobe was a chosen one—special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm. He went beyond the veil."

A number of NBA head coaches, executives and team governors paid their respects to Bryant on Sunday after learning of his death:

Teams playing games on Sunday also honored Bryant by opening games with 24- and eight-second violations, representing the two numbers he wore during his career:

Bryant and Jackson won five titles together between 1999-10, including three in a row during the Shaquille O'Neal years and two in a row with Pau Gasol as Bryant's running mate. Under Jackson, Bryant won one league MVP, two Finals MVPs, went to 12 All-Star Games and was an All-NBA First Team selection nine times.

While Bryant and Jackson had a complicated relationship during their time together, Bryant said in 2017 that he would want either Michael Jordan or Jackson to present him into the Hall of Fame.

"In terms of who might present, for me it's two people: Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson," he told Liz Levy of Complex. "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."

And he said in 2005 that he appreciated Jackson's coaching.

"I've always enjoyed being coached by Phil," he told Ric Bucher, then writing for ESPN The Magazine. "We've had our disagreements and not always seen eye to eye, but for the most part we've been on the same wavelength."