Phil Jackson Emotionally Reflects On Kobe Bryant, Says He Was A 'Chosen One'

Kobe Bryant’s mentor and NBA legend Phil Jackson shared some heartfelt words about the former Los Angeles Laker who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. 

“The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones,” Jackson said in a statement to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “Kobe was a chosen one — special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm. He went beyond the veil.”

Jackson notably mentored Bryant for 11 seasons with the Lakers as the team’s head coach, with the two winning five NBA championships together between 2000 and 2010.

Jackson, now 74, played 12 seasons as a power forward in the NBA; he helped take the New York Knicks to the NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. He has since acted as a coach for the Chicago Bulls and then the Lakers. After his retirement from coaching in 2011, Jackson joined the Knicks as team president in 2014. He was dismissed in 2017.

Bryant, who retired in 2016, had indicated that he wanted either Jackson or Michael Jordan to induct him into the Basketball Hall of Fame should he get the honor.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson (L) and NBA player Kobe Bryant attend Bryant’s hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Feb. 19, 2011, in Hollywood, California.

“They’ve been the greatest mentors, not only in my career as an athlete, but also as a person. And what I might say is just a lot of thank yous. ’Cause I’ve had a lotta help along the way. A lotta lotta help,” said Bryant in an interview with Complex in 2017.

Bryant, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and eight other passengers on Sunday, is slated to be honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo told reporter Shams Charania at The Athletic that the organization plans to pay homage to the athlete “the way he should be.”