NBA Betting:Teaching Kobe Bryant humility (by


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Dec 5, 2008

<strong>Throughout an illustrious career, Kobe Bryant's undoubted on-court ability has been occasionally besmirched by charges of arrogance. Not any more, says Alister Morgan. And it's all down to one man...</strong>

Phil Jackson is the <strong>most successful NBA coach of all time</strong> but last season he contributed to another hardwood miracle that went pretty much unnoticed.

<strong>Kobe Bryant</strong> has three Championship rings but last year won his first NBA <strong>MVP Award</strong>. This struck me as a little odd - Kobe already has three Championship rings but despite his talent you can't escape one, nagging fact... he's not as popular as he should be with NBA fans.

But charges of arrogance are long gone this season as Bryant leads a new crop of talented Lakers on-field while sincerely talking up the merits of teamwork and dedication off it. In part I credit Phil Jackson; a man long since recognised as a master tactician in professional sports. Now he can add, <strong>"teaching Kobe Bryant humility"</strong> to his peerless résumé.

Every NBA team Jackson has coached reached the Playoffs. He's won a total of nine Championships - six with Chicago, three with LA. Jackson likes winning in streaks of three (or "three-peats") but his tenure at LA was initially difficult.

Dealing with warring titans,<strong> Shaquille O'Neal</strong> and Kobe Bryant, was never going to be easy. Jackson made instant improvements quickly installing the <strong>"triangle offence" </strong>which had been so successful in Chicago. The team defeated the Indiana Pacers to win a Championship in Jackson's first year and two more followed in 2001 and 2002. There was success on court but the Lakers were crippled by internecine conflict behind the scenes.

Despite three back-to-back titles Kobe found aspects of Jackson's coaching uninspiring and would increasingly <strong>improvise plays on-court</strong>. Factor in Kobe's much-publicised trial for rape and a disintegrating relationship between the teams two biggest stars and change was inevitable. Jackson is often referred to as a "Zen Master" but his love of Eastern philosophy couldn't prevent the meltdown.

Behind the scenes Jackson, O'Neal and Bryant<strong> schemed for control</strong> and in the end Kobe was the one left standing. Phil Jackson was sacked and O'Neal was traded to Miami Heat but Kobe couldn't carry the franchise alone despite his<strong> breath-taking skills</strong>.

Less than two years later <strong>Jackson would return to the Lakers with a brief to build a new dynasty</strong> but his first job was to repair a relationship with a player he once described as "uncoachable".

Fast forward to the present and LA are once again a team to be reckoned with and Kobe once more the key pivot in Jackson's triangle offence. The Lakers continue to dominate the Western Conference appearing far ahead of the chasing pack. LA are clear favourites to win another conference at [1.14] and are currently playing like a team destined for a solid Play-off campaign. "Harmonious" would be one way to describe Phil Jackson's team at present and if key front-court players <strong>Lamar Odem</strong> and <strong>Pau Gasol</strong> (who can lighten Kobe's on-court responsibilities) remain fit the Lakers look serious contenders for another Championship.

Last year they fell short to a well-balanced Boston team but their early season form has been such that they are now <strong>favourites to win another NBA Championship</strong>. You can back LA at [3.2] to win but the Celtics should not be dismissed at [4.5]. They appear undervalued for a team who defeated LA 4-2 in the 2008 NBA Finals but in Jackson the Lakers have a coach who knows how to win Championship rings.

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