The evening before Mike D'Antoni was due to arrive in Los Angeles as the new coach of the Lakers, Kobe Bryant was still talking about Phil Jackson.
Jackson's effect on the Lakers superstar runs deep, so much so that Bryant said his former coach's teachings still influence every aspect of his game.
"I'm basically the baby zen master," he said.
When asked if he would have been a member of five NBA championship teams if it weren't for Jackson, Bryant didn't hesitate.
"Probably not," he said.
Standing by his locker Tuesday night following the Lakers 84-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Bryant offered some insight into to what made Jackson such a successful coach.
"The thing about Phil and [Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich] and great coaches is they make the role players play very well," he said. "Guys like myself, Shaq, MJ, you know, Pippen, our numbers are always going to be excellent no matter who you put us with. That's just what we do.
"Them instilling confidence in the rest of the group and putting them in a position to be successful, allowing them to play in the fourth quarter when they blow a lead, and letting them develop, those are the things that make a great coach."
Bryant almost got another chance to play under Jackson after Mike Brown was fired Friday. Lakers executives went over to Jackson's home Saturday to discuss his possible return for a third stint with the team, but they ultimately chose D'Antoni as Brown's successor.
Bryant said he's perplexed about why other teams haven't tried to lure the legendary coach out of retirement or implement his highly successful systems.
"It's very strange, very bizarre," he said. "You would think that organizations and other coaches would try to learn from Phil. I mean, that's what they should do, right?
"If you have a coach who's won more than anybody in the profession, you would kind of want to try to study them and analyze them and figure out why that's the case, but they haven't done it."
Bryant, who played under Jackson for 11 of his 17 seasons in the NBA, said that when Jackson and his staff left the Lakers in 2011, their teachings to a large extent were swept under the rug.
"To even mention the word 'triangle' was like taboo," he said. "I don't understand it."
Even though Jackson and D'Antoni have completely different coaching styles, Bryant said he thinks that they share an important commonality.
"Mike has some of the same characteristics in terms of not micromanaging a team," Bryant said. "Kind of setting guys up and putting guys in the right position to be successful."
That comparison in and of itself was a form of high praise, especially considering that Bryant said he doesn't think he would be the player he is today without Jackson's guidance.
"I probably wouldn't have learned the game to the depths that I know now," he said.
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