Apparently, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan weren’t that identical in Phil Jackson’s eyes
According to revered sportswriter and author Roland Lazenby, who wrote the critically acclaimed books, “Michael Jordan: The Life”, “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant” and “Mindgames: Phil Jackson’s Long Strange Journey,” he learned after years of talking to Phil Jackson’s coaching staff, the Zen Master acknowledged the similarities and difference between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. However, Jackson never entitled Bryant to the same level of liberty as Jordan on the offensive end.
“As my friend, longtime assistant coach Tex Winter talked about how the coaching staff of Phil Jackson discussed the many similarities, as well as the differences. Jordan’s hands were larger, and Jordan was stronger in holding position in the post. But they basically played the same position in the triangle and attacked in the same ways… Kobe learned the offense inside and out; however, Phil Jackson would not allow Kobe the same freedoms and the same access to the offense that he allowed Jordan. This frustrated Kobe considerably,” Lazenby told ReadMoreCo in 2021.
Breaking it down
So if Jackson’s playbook in Chicago and Los Angeles revolved around the triangle and players with remarkably identical skill sets, why didn’t the Zen Master allow Bryant to score like Mike? Let’s try and break it down.
Efficiency-wise, MJ beats Kobe. While both shot a lot throughout their Hall of Fame careers, Jordan was significantly more efficient, with a 49.7% field goal percentage. Bryant, meanwhile, shot 44.7% from the field.
As for shot selection, we all know Jordan killed his competition from the mid-range all night, while Kob’ loved to shoot treys but also utilized the mid-range as well. Yes, Kobe was evidently the better three-point shooter, but he also missed a lot. So, when it came down to ensuring a bucket in each possession, even if it wasn’t a three, MJ appears to be the man as he shot an impressive 51% from two-pointers, and we have to factor in that it was always against double and triple-team defense, while Bryant was slightly below the 50 mark, 47.9% to be exact.
Now, for overall results, we all witnessed how Jordan dominated an entire era. So, it was evident that MJ was a better go-to guy than Kobe, and the number of wins serves as proof. One more thing, Jackson had Shaquille O’Neal in Los Angeles. So, Bryant had to prove that he was way better than MJ for Phil to put him above Shaq.
We can analyze this subject all day, but Jackson once said:
“There was something coachable about Michael that Kobe didn’t have. But Kobe had an irrepressible fire. He’d know what he’d done. He had a conscience.”