Much like I would venture to say Shaq is the main person driving the buzz and fueling the drama with Dwight Howard, I have always wondered what place Phil Jackson truly played in the oft-discussed Kobe vs. Shaq feud. We’ve seen how Jackson uses his high-brow and pompous sense of humor to send verbal jabs at players, officials, opposing owners (secretly, I miss his bouts with Cuban)…but is it possible The Zen Master was actually the one sitting behind the scenes and orchestrating the rift between Shaq and Kobe in order to motivate (control) them by pitting them against one another? Here are Robert Horry’s comments on the matter from a recent interview:
“I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort,” said Horry.
“I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense,” Horry added.
If you take a step back to analyze the history of Phil Jackson, you’ll remember his issues he had with the (then) Bulls management/owner (Jerry Krause, Jerry Reinsdorf, respectively). Jerry West (Lakers GM when Phil was hired the first time around) recently revealed in his autobiography- “West By West: My Charmed, Tormented Life,” that even though he was the one that personally advocated for Phil Jackson’s hiring by the Lakers, “Phil Jackson had absolutely no respect” for West. Although West doesn’t come out and directly say it, West alludes to the fact that this rift eventually played into his exit from Los Angeles. Regardless of how you feel about West, when you analyze the history of the Phil Jackson’s career, it is tough to deny Jackson’s apparent issue with power, control, and manipulation of circumstances. In no way is this a slight against what the man brought to the table as a motivator, offensive innovator (can be taken multiple ways), and manager of talent/egos…but his track record of wearing thin on his players and having major issues with anyone in a management capacity make the fact that his teams would generally wear thin on his message/approach every 3-4 years, (now) makes more sense.