In his new book, co-written with Hugh Delehanty and entitled “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” Jackson breaks down what separated Jordan from Bryant, the biggest stars and personalities that he coached during his Hall of Fame career.
The Los Angeles Times, which received an advance copy of the 339-page book, provided some details of Jackson’s Jordan and Bryant comparison.
In terms of advantages, the biggest that Jordan had over Bryant was leadership early in his career, according to Jackson.
“ 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” — Phil Jackson
“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 in his bones.”
Jackson, who coached Jordan to six titles with the Chicago Bulls and Bryant to five with the Los Angeles Lakers, also compared the players’ defensive skills and accuracy. Once again, Jackson sided with Jordan.
“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.”
Saying Bryant learned some of Jordan’s defensive tricks, Jackson added: “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.”
On offense, Jackson said: “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 also touched on the difference in personalities.
“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.”
Jackson also revealed that the sexual assault charges levied against Bryant in 2003 temporarily clouded his outlook of the Lakers star. The situation “cracked open an old wound” because Jackson’s daughter Brooke had been sexually assaulted by an athlete in college.