Phil Jackson Admits Sexual Assault Case Changed His Perception of Kobe

USA TodayPhil Jackson’s latest book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, catalogs Jackson’s time in the NBA – from his playing days with the New York Knicks to his legendary coaching career with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

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One aspect of the book that Jackson spends time discussing is the sexual assault case that Kobe Bryant faced in 2004. Bryant, who was accused of sexual assault while in Colorado, went through a highly publicized legal process before the charges were ultimately dropped. Jackson admitted that this changed his perception of Bryant once this news was revealed.

For me, the incident cracked open an old wound that had never fully healed. Several years earlier, when my daughter Brooke was in college, she had been the victim of an assault while on a date with a campus athlete. I had never felt entirely clear about my response. I suppressed my rage–as I’d been conditioned to do since childhood. In truth, there wasn’t much I could have done; the case was in the hands of the police, and meddling on my part would probably have done more harm than good. Still, burying my fury and maintaining a calm exterior didn’t give Brooke any comfort; it left her feeling vulnerable, (In the end, after filing a report with the police, Brooke chose not to press charges).

The Kobe incident triggered all my unprocessed anger and tainted my perception of him. […] […] I had a fixed idea in my head and it distorted my view of Kobe throughout the 2003-04 season. No matter what I did to extinguish it, the anger kept smoldering in the back ground. Which, unfortunately, set the tone for much of the weirdness that followed.

This is an enormous revelation from Jackson, who was in charge of leading his players and making sure they were all on the same page and respected one another. Obviously Phil has the right to disagree with the actions of his players, especially in the case of a potential sexual assault, but the bigger story here should be that eventually a resolution was reached and the relationship was repaired. This became before Jackson’s last book, The Last Season: A Team In Search of Its Soul, in which Phil referred to Kobe as “uncoachable.”

Obviously this is a sensitive issue, but one that Jackson felt the need to share in his latest memoir.

There were plenty of other stories that continue to surface from Eleven Rings. Whether it’s the comparisons between Bryant and Michael Jordan, or that Kobe asked Phil for an autograph the first time they met, this is sure to be a popular read amongst all basketball fans.

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success will be available to the public starting Tuesday.


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