Phil Jackson leans to Michael Jordan over Kobe Bryant
In his new memoir “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success” that will be out next Tuesday, Jackson finally compares Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as players. Jackson clearly favors MJ over Kobe.
Jackson has won 11 championship rings as a coach — six with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Lakers. He mostly avoided comparing MJ and Kobe — two of the greatest players ever, both of whom were star players on his teams — until now. That’s probably because he was still in the middle of his coaching career when he wrote his first book.
According to excerpts from the book shared by the Los Angeles Times, Jackson calls Jordan a “tougher, more intimidating defender,” and says Kobe sometimes forces the action. He also said Jordan had superior skills to Kobe as a leader.
“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense,” Jackson writes, per The Times.
“Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael’s tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game. In general, Kobe tends to rely more heavily on his flexibility and craftiness, but he takes a lot of gambles on defense and sometimes pays the price.”
Jackson also commented on Kobe’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors and noted the difference in shooting percentage between the two; Kobe is 45.4 percent for his career, whereas Jordan was 49.7.
“Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson writes. “Michael was stronger, with bigger shoulders and a sturdier frame. He also had large hands that allowed him to control the ball better and make subtle fakes.
“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”
Jackson believes Jordan was a superior leader to Kobe, and thinks that missing college kept Bryant from developing some social skills. Jackson believes that was manifested in the way the two interacted with teammates.
“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around,” Jackson writes.
“Kobe is different. He was reserved as a teenager, in part because he was younger than the other players and hadn’t developed strong social skills in college. When Kobe first joined the Lakers, he avoided fraternizing with his teammates. But his inclination to keep to himself shifted as he grew older. Increasingly, Kobe put more energy into getting to know the other players, especially when the team was on the road.
“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson said. “Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence. Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he’d yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had.”
Jackson did praise Kobe for getting better as a team leader later in his career, saying the Lakers star embraced some of his teammates as partners in their pursuit of success. The Times also has more from Jackson, who says the 2003 rape allegations against Bryant temporarily changed his perception of the star player.
Nobody should view this commentary as Jackson bashing Kobe. He seems to be providing an honest assessment, because any objective observer would agree with what he said about their defensive and offensive styles as well as their leadership.