Master-coach reveals all about his NBA career in a new book.
Michael Jordan was better at leading his players into games while Kobe Bryant was a win-at-all-costs superstar who could score 81 points by himself if needed, Phil Jackson writes in a new book.
Jordan was power and strength while Bryant was more finesse and speed, according to Jackson, who coached both NBA legends in their prime, Jordan with the Chicago Bulls and Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant wanted to win championships as much as Jordan and was willing to make incredible sacrifices to achieve that goal, 11-time NBA champion coach Jackson said in a new book entitled, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success”.
Bryant suffered a season-ending injury last month, tearing his Achilles tendon against the Golden State Warriors. Bryant, 34, has a long recovery road ahead of him and many wonder if the injury could be career ending.
“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson wrote in the 339-page memoir, portions of which were published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times.
“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.”
Jackson described Jordan as a natural leader while saying Bryant had to learn how to open himself to let others so he could work with them more closely instead of just giving orders.
“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 and Michael had,” Jackson wrote.
Jackson, who guided Jordan’s Bulls to six NBA titles and Bryant’s Lakers to five NBA crowns, is often asked to compare Bryant and Jordan but is reluctant to do so.
He has done it after championships but in the book, available on Tuesday, he goes into more detail.
Bryant, who once scored 81 points against Toronto, has a win-at-all-costs mentality, according to Jackson, who says Bryant doesn’t know the meaning of surrender and will hammer away with his shot until it starts to click for him.
Jordan was better at going with the flow or adapting and listening to what his body was trying to tell him on a certain day, Jackson writes.
“If his jump shot wasn’t falling, he switched to concentrating on defense or passing and if he got hot with the three-pointer he would ride that shot to the final buzzer.
“Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength while Kobe often tried to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson said.
“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.”
Unlike Jordan, who grew up in the United States, Bryant is a “third culture kid”, having spent much of his childhood in Italy, where his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant played and coached basketball. Bryant also speaks Italian and Spanish.
“Kobe is different. He was reserved as a teenager,” Jackson wrote. “In part because he was younger than the other players and hadn’t developed strong social skills in college. When Kobe joined the Lakers, he avoided fraternizing with his teammates.”
It would take a long time, but Jackson said Kobe eventually learned to become a better teammate.
“Kobe started to shift. He embraced the team and his teammates. It was as if the other players were now his partners, not his personal spear carriers.”
Jackson also wrote about Bryant’s sexual assault charges in 2003. Charges were dropped a year later but Jackson said it changed the way he viewed Bryant and part of the reason was that his daughter was a victim of an assault while on a date in college.
“The Kobe incident triggered all my unprocessed anger and tainted my perception of him,” Jackson wrote. “It distorted my view of Kobe throughout the 2003-04 season … the anger kept smoldering in the background.”
Jackson said after their 2009 NBA championship, he felt a new bond between himself and Bryant.
“The look and pride and joy in Kobe’s eyes made all the pain we had endured in our journey together worth it,” Jackson wrote. “This was our moment of triumph. A moment of total reconciliation that had been seven years long in coming.”