Skip to main content

Why young Kobe Bryant wasn't truly happy with Phil Jackson's triangle offense

The Black Mamba had a difficult time adjusting to the triangle, so much so that he felt uncomfortable going to practice - something he never experienced before.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

One would assume that Kobe Bryant fit right into Phil Jackson’s triangle offense from the get-go. After all, Bryant is a diligent student of the game who looked up to Michael Jordan. It was probably his dream to play for the Zen Master’s vaunted offense. But the reality is that the Black Mamba had a difficult time adjusting to this offense. So much so that he couldn’t look his teammates in the eye for quite some time.


In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bryant went on his experience playing with the Los Angeles Lakers. He suddenly felt discomfort that wasn’t there before. He quickly realized that his teammates had a problem with him.

Something wasn’t right. I go to practice and I feel uncomfortable. What’s this about? This wasn’t here before. Something must be going on around here. It was about me. It was them thinking I was all about myself, that I was being selfish. Which was totally not the case,” Bryant said.

The triangle offense is a sophisticated offensive package that, in its essence, gives a team a plethora of scoring options. Lots of movement, spacing, and passing are involved. Bryant, a shoot-first type of player, wasn’t too keen on this type of offense. But as with most things, when you start winning, you begin to soften.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Charlie Rose: Does your game match the Lakers’ offense?

Kobe Bryant: No. Absolutely not.

Rose: Can you be happy playing this offense?

Bryant: Completely and totally happy? No. But happy enough to win? Yeah. That’s good enough for me.


Kobe was in his early 20s during the Charlie Rose interview. Perhaps he was immature, hungry, and desperate to set himself apart from the others. He saw the triangle offense as a mere tool in his quest for rings. He didn’t see its inherent value then. But fast forward to several years later, Bryant praised the triangle offense for its ability to put defenses in a daze.

Our teams were hard to play against because the opposition didn’t know what we were going to do. Why? Because We didn’t know what we were going to do from moment to moment. Everybody was reading and reacting to each other. It was a great orchestra,” Bryant said in Phil Jackson’s book “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.”

In various interviews after his retirement, Bryant emphasized that the real dream is in the journey, not the destination. Perhaps his love-hate relationship with the triangle offense is one of the critical points in his life that made him utter this seemingly tired, old cliche that holds a ton of truth. 

Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird

"Score meant very little, but a lot of talking going on, a lot of fun." - Larry Bird learned trash-talking from black men working at a local hotel

In the process, Bird developed a genuine and off-the-court relationship with most of them, particularly a guy whom he called “Slim.”

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant

Brian Windhorst on Kevin Durant potentially holding out — “I can see it. That’s what we’re headed towards”

Several recent developments turned Durant's potential holdout from unlikely to very possible.

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings goes off on the state of the NBA - “It’s only a couple of guys in the NBA that love the game”

Jennings' opinions are certainly divisive, but it's clear that without change the NBA would get stale, and that's why it's necessary to continue exploring ways to evolve the game

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s secret tattoo and the meaning behind it revealed

It's barely visible and not something MJ liked to talk about.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Zach Snyder on directing Michael Jordan in "Playground" — “He’s a natural.”

One went on to make Space Jam, the other 300, Justice League, Army of the Dead, Man of Steel, Watchmen, and Dawn of the Dead. Two great movie careers, starting in 1990.

Miami Heat forward LeBron James and team president Pat Riley

The moment Pat Riley should've known LeBron James would one day leave Miami

Upon his arrival to Miami, LeBron made a request that should've let Riley know a new era was coming.

Dennis Rodman

How Dennis Rodman's gay bar double-date led to the Chicago Bulls winning the 1996 NBA Championship

Remember Jack Haley? It turns out he was crucial for the Bulls winning in 1996 because he was “the only person who speaks fluent Rodman,” and knew how to convince Dennis not to quit the team before Game 6 of the Finals.