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"Kobe used to sabotage his own games" — Phil Jackson on the wildest rumor on Kobe Bryant's high school days

Phil Jackson dug up some wild Kobe Bryant stories to learn how to coach him.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and guard Kobe Bryant

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant

Like most NBA players, Kobe Bryant was the star of his high school basketball team. But what separates Kobe from most is that he was levels above his competition. According to legendary head coach Phil Jackson, Bryant sabotaged his games for his personal benefit.

Wild Kobe Bryant rumor

NBA fans know that Kobe had a penchant for taking over games all by himself. This tendency had its roots way back in high school. According to a rumor heard by Phil Jackson, Bryant would intentionally put his team in a slump in the middle of the game. Later on, Kobe would floor the pedal to the metal and guide them to victory.

Someone told me that in high school, Kobe used to sabotage his own games. So the game could be close. So he could dominate at the end. To sabotage the team process, to be so self-centered in your own process .. it’s almost stupefying,” Jackson said, per ESPN.

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Jackson dropped such comments in March 2001. This was one month before the playoffs when the Los Angeles Lakers were out to defend their title. Despite winning one title together, Jackson and Bryant were still working on their player-coach relationship.

Phil shared that Bryant wanted to tweak the triangle offense — a team-oriented system — to showcase more of his individual scoring talent. Jackson was probably trying to study Kobe’s personality to understand how to coach him. And he came across a wild rumor that’s probably true.

Like Jordan

This is another proof that Bryant is the only player who could be rightfully compared to Michael Jordan. To recall, before Jordan started winning titles in bunches, he was known for taking over games all by himself. This playstyle could only go for so long. Teams who work together seamlessly in the playoffs have a better chance of winning. The main criticism hurled at the young Jordan was that he didn’t trust his teammates enough.

It was Jackson who taught Jordan to pass the ball. And it resulted in six titles and the GOAT tag. It’s interesting that Bryant’s narrative was similar but went the other way. Upon winning his first title, that’s when he wanted to get more cracks at the basket, which wasn’t the main philosophy of Jackson’s triangle offense.

Whatever the case may be, it’s a fascinating tidbit from Bryant’s early years. Kobe knew that he was an offensive machine very early on. And he was willing to do anything to get his way. In a way, Jackson’s intervention worked wonders. While Kobe didn’t get as many touches as he would’ve wished, he still won five titles with the Zen Master’s guidance. 

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