Phil ‘The Zenmaster’ Jackson. The same man who successfully juggled the egos of KB8 and Raise Your Stack Shaq to the tune of 3 titles. The same man who turned the Chicago Bulls into the nineties dynasty by harboring the borderline sociopathically competitive nature of Michael Jordan into a team system. Where do you think Kobe got this idea that the Lakers front office was working not exactly in his best, current interests? Who told him that Buss had essentially thrown his waning prime years under the bus? Which party stands to gain the most from this discord between owner and star? Mr. Jackson, you can put your hand down, it was a rhetorical question.
Let me paint you a picture: You’re an NBA head coach, albeit a widely successful and respected one, but as you watch the puzzle pieces move around you, there is the undeniable sense around the Association that all coaches are expendable. Stan Van Gundy is stuffed in Pat Riley’s trophy room, his brother is announcing playoff games, and you have felt how expendable you are in the ouster from Chicago all those years ago. What would the best way to gain leverage over the ownership, aside from sleeping with the owner’s daughter? Turn their biggest draw, their biggest star, arguably the best player in the game, against them, using him as a pawn to get what you want, a contending team for the next year.
In my opinion, Kobe has in some way caught wind of all this, seen behind the curtain, recognized the master pulling the strings, and has been backpedaling all the while, realizing that the goals they both had will most likely not be realized. Will KB24 sit out? NO WAY. But as soon as he can, will he get the hell out of LA-LA Land? If all these rumors prove untrue, you can bet your khakis with a cuff and a crease on it.
Oh, and for those who don't understand the picture, I direct you to Mr. Bill Simmons' analysis to Kobe's self-given nickname over the summer of 2005. Here's the link to the whole article, and below is the Kobe excerpt...
Kobe's new nickname
An actual excerpt from Ric Bucher's ESPN The Mag cover story about Kobe and Phil (and no, I'm not making this up):
"Granted, there's still a dark side that Bryant embraces. He's known in his inner circle as Mamba, which, he is happy to explain, is a kind of snake that can grow to 13 feet and is one of the world's quickest, and one of the most venomous, serpents. He referred to this summer as the 'blackout,' in which the snake grew a new skin through a seven-days-a-week conditioning program."
Wait, there's more!
Here's Kobe explaining his new nickname: "The mamba can strike with 99 percent accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession. That's the kind of basketball precision I want to have. Not being able to train the last two summers, I was in a gunfight with a rusty butter knife. I did my share of killing, but I was just fighting to survive."
All right ...
First of all, I love when any celebrity gives himself a new nickname to change his identity. It's funny when wrestlers change gimmicks and end up with a new nickname, it's funny when Diddy changes nicknames, and it's downright hysterical when an NBA star once accused of sexual assault decides it would be a fantastic idea to embrace the identity of a 13-foot serpent. Second, when they explain the choice of the nickname with a beauty like, "The mamba can strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession," and refuse to credit "Kill Bill," it reminds me why I still love writing this column. And third, I
don't think this nickname is catching on, since I have been delightedly telling everyone I know about the Mamba story, and nobody has heard of it, so I'm calling Kobe "Mamba" in this space from this point forward. Long live Mamba.