Perhaps Los Angeles would prefer not to be reminded of this detail, but before he was theirs, Phil Jackson belonged — in the sense that any coach can belong, at least – to Chicago. He was the Bulls coach of the storied 1990s, winning six NBA championship rings. He was Michael Jordan’s coach.
Before Kobe Bryant. Before the next five championships. Before he became Jeanie Buss’s boyfriend and then fiancé, thereby a member of the highest echelon of Lakers society. Before all that, he had a bigger star. He had the best.
In his new book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” which he co-wrote with Hugh Delehanty and will be available in stores on Tuesday, Jackson looks back over his career in a big way, and one of the narratives that arises is that of a comparison: MJ vs. Kobe. They were his two biggest stars, his two biggest personalities, perhaps, and Jackson will be remembered as much for them as he is for his style of coaching and success.
The Los Angeles Times, which received an advance copy of the book, wrote Thursday in detail on the Jordan-Bryant comparison, with excerpts culled from Jackson’s memoir:
“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe,” Jackson writes. “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.
Some other differences Jackson notes are the differences in the two players’ defensive skills and accuracy. No surprise — Jordan comes out on top.
“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender,” Jackson writes. “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 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.”
One week from today the book,ELEVEN RINGS, is coming out. For your info, my avi is the cover photo of the book.
And perhaps the comparison that speaks the loudest about Jordan — and may throw Kobe into a rage — is this one:
“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson writes. “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.”
The Times story also revealed a few more nuggets from the book:
* Jackson’s interest in Zen picked up after he met a practicing construction worker who helped build his house in the 1970s.
* Jackson’s words to Jordan after he showed up in the coach’s office in 1995 hoping to return to basketball after a failed attempt at a baseball career: “Well, I think we’ve got a uniform here that might fit you.”
* Jackson’s daughter, Brooke, had been the victim of sexual assault by an athlete in college, and when the Bryant situation occurred, it “triggered all my unprocessed anger and tainted my perception of him,” Jackson said.
* Jackson considers the Lakers’ Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals the most satisfying of his career.