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Phil Jackson’s epic retort to Kobe Bryant’s loathing for the “boring” and “so simple” triangle offense

The Zen Master laid out the key benefits of the triangle offense in terms of player health and wellness.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant

Before Kobe Bryant started winning titles with Phil Jackson, the Black Mamba absolutely hated the triangle offense. It was an offense that featured a lot of movement. This did not sit well with Bryant, who was keen on carrying the offense alone. In one of their debates, the Zen Master countered Bryant’s points by raising key arguments on why the triangle offense is so good.

Boring and simple offense

In 2001, with one title already stamped on his resume, Bryant seemingly wanted to tweak the offense that led him to his first ring. Jackson noticed Kobe’s uneasiness and sparked a conversation with him.

The other day I said to Kobe, ‘What’s the problem?’ “Jackson said. “He said, ‘The game’s too boring for me. The offense is so simple. It doesn’t display my talent,’” Jackson shared, per ESPN.

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As the great coach he was, Jackson did not pan or disregard Kobe’s sentiments. He did not simply say Bryant should run the offense because it’s the system that gave him his NBA Championship. Instead, Jackson explained one of the key benefits of the triangle offense’s simplicity.

“I said, ‘I realize that. But we’re trying to win games with the least amount of things going wrong, the fewest injuries, the least fatigue.’ He said, ‘But it doesn’t give me what I have to have for my game.’

Those who witnessed the triangle offense would agree that the system was slow and calculated. It wasn’t a fast and furious offense like Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns or LeBron’s Miami Heat. Jackson’s teams were patient in their search for the right shot in every offensive possession.

Kobe wanted to be like Mike

Interestingly, Kobe embraced the triangle offense the first time around. He knew that it was the same offense that his idol Michael Jordan utilized to snag his titles. But Jackson pointed out that the Los Angeles Lakers were very different from the Chicago Bulls. As for one, Kobe did not have a Scottie Pippen-type player by his side.

Kobe’s having a hard time with the triangle offense this year. Not last year. Last year he could hardly wait to get to the spot on the floor where Michael Jordan had been. He wanted to be Michael. But it’s a different team this year. We don’t have a Scottie Pippen for him, the guy who allowed Michael to be Michael. That’s the cross Kobe has to bear,” Jackson said.

Despite his reservations about the triangle offense, Bryant stuck with it and won more titles. In fact, in those years that Kobe did not have Jackson by his side, he did not even come close to snagging some hardware. The young Kobe did not realize it early on. But the triangle offense was the perfect system that catered to his talents.

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