Phil Jackson rarely liked comparing Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.
But with his upcoming memoir titled “Eleven Rings” going on sale next Tuesday, well he’s gushing plenty about the two stars he coached in two separate stints with the Chicago Bulls (Jordan) and Laker (Bryant). And when he appeared Thursday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jackson devoted plenty of time in further dissecting the similarities and differences.
“They both have this competitive zeal that’s unmatched,” Jackson said. “You tell them to run through a wall, and they’ll say how deep, how wide and how high and everything else. They’ll go through the wall. However, the competitiveness for Kobe stops at the end of the basketball court. He’s not competitive anymore. Michael wants to race you in the car and beat you in ping pong. He wants to beat you in cards and wants to beat you in golf. All those things. He’s competitive all the way through. Their game. Michael had these incredible hands where he could take the ball, show it to a guy and get him off his feet. That alone was a difference maker for him as a basketball player. A little better shooting percentage. A little more consistent with the type of game he’s going to play. A little more into the team system. Kobe didn’t have all the schooling. Dean Smith, who he had at North Carolina, taught Michael a few things. Both of them championship players, no doubt about it.”
Jordan has six championship rings to Bryant’s fifth, but Jackson’s preference for Jordan goes beyond the trophy count. Jackson considered Jordan a better leader, more disciplined scorer and better defender. But with Bryant fielding endless comparisons to Jordan early in his career, Jackson arranged a one-on-one meeting between the two stars.
“His mannerisms were so like Michael that I would say don’t try to take over this game like Michael Jordan would. Wait. He said I’m not trying to do that. You’re disrespecting me. At some point, Michael comes in and I say, Let’s meet in a chairman’s room after the game at Staples. So we meet. First thing he does, he sits down and says you know I can beat you one on one right. So Michael said, listen you can stay inside the offense. The offense is great. Then in the middle of the fourth quarter, last nine minutes of the fourth quarter, you need something extra, bring out your stuff and do it. Phil always told me score 14.”
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