There have been many instances where Phil Jackson was asked who he thought was better, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Since Jackson coached both superstars he would know better than others who try and weigh in on this issue. When he coached MJ they won six NBA titles together and just one less when Phil was in L.A. with Kobe.
Countless times he was asked and as per usual Phil would give a noncommittal answer. It was almost as if the media was waiting for Jackson’s true answer like a woman waiting for her boyfriend to propose. Well Jackson finally popped the question…. er I mean answered the question in his new book called “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.”
Overall Jackson believes that Jordan is better than Kobe. In his book he says that Jordan was a better leader than Bryant.
In his book Phil writes, “One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader. 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 in his bones.”
Okay so Jordan one Kobe zero. One the defensive side again votes in the direction of MJ. Jackson in his book says, “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. 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.”
Jordan two, Kobe zero. Switching to the offensive side of things Jackson again prefers Jordan’s overall offensive production. Jackson compares them as he writes, “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.”
Jordan three, Kobe zero. Even though Bryant did try to follow in Jordan’s footsteps with the he played on the court and even the way he spoke to the media. The two were different in how they interacted with their teammates.
Phil says, “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. 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.”
I wonder what will be going in Kobe’s mind as he reads Phil’s book. These words from Jackson might just fuel Bryant even more while he is trying to rehab from when he tore his Achilles tendon. Not that Bryant needs anymore motivation, but Jackson’s words could be “bulletin board” material in Bryant’s house.
With that being said I totally agree with Phil. Each generation believes the players they watched were the greatest of all time. I grew up watching MJ and to this day I think Jordan is hands down the best basketball player in the history of the NBA.
What say you? Who is better MJ or Kobe?