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Phil Jackson: Kobe is not Jordan, nobody is

Mar 13, 2011, 5:00 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan

Phil Jackson has been there, he has played golf with Michael Jordan. He has had dinners with Kobe Bryant. He has coached them both. He has won championships with both. His perspective on comparing the greatest player of his generation (if not all time) and his heir apparent may have the most insight.

And he wants us to stop comparing the two.

Really, we need to stop comparing anyone to Jordan, he told T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times.

“Kobe has patterned himself after Michael, and there are a lot of identical things there, but it’s one thing to hope to be like him, it’s another thing to be like him….

“I’m with [ESPN’s] Bill Simmons on this,” he says. “We have to take Michael Jordan out of the equation. Stop comparing anyone to Michael Jordan. It’s just not fair. He was remarkable. Kobe’s in his own sphere.

“He doesn’t shoot the same percentage [.455] as Michael [.497]. He has the same characteristics as Michael, but he’s not the same player. It takes nothing away from him — he’s a great player in his own right.”

Not sure there is much to add there. Kobe is a great player. Maybe the second best wing player ever. But he is not at the top of the list.

  1. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 13, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Second best wing player ?, who is the best ?

    • tubal22 - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:15 AM

      Ever heard of Michael Jordan?

  2. RockStarImages | Ken Weil - Mar 13, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Phil is just trying to bump up Kobe right now. MJ was brilliant when he played but Kobe is just as good right now. At his personal high Kobe was unstoppable…because he Had to be. Now he has made all those around him better. They Are different players in some respect. The remarkable thing Kobe has done MJ never did was make His team great with two completely different teams(minus Fish). Shaq could not win without Kobe nor visa versa. MJ could not win without Pippen(obviously visa versa). But the question I ask is if MJ came back from his layoff after 2-3 years with mostly different teammates, could He have won another 3-peat? Another 2. If anybody had the chance for it MJ did. Oh and as far as I can see none of them won ANYTHING without Phil!!!

    • pudgalvin - Mar 13, 2011 at 9:37 PM

      I don’t understand. MJ did come back with after 2 years with a completely different team. And he won three more. As you said Jordan had Pippen for both runs, but they’re the only two players that were on the 93 and 95 teams.

    • avermaver - Mar 13, 2011 at 11:28 PM

      trying to equate Shaq with Pippen? I don’t think so, couldn’t be anymore different. Michael Jordan was drafted onto one of the worst teams in basketball, Kobe was playing with Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel, and Shaq his first season. The talent level Kobe played with while developing into an NBA all-star type player was unreal. Jordan had to build his championship squads from scratch with a little help from the later traitor Krause and Phil Jackson and his coaching staff.

    • passerby23 - Mar 14, 2011 at 12:41 AM

      Really? Phil is just trying to bump him up?

      I’ll never understand the comparisons, even if Kobe wins three more championships. Jordan shot a much better percentage, very seldom took a bad shot (unlike Kobe), and won all six championships without a dominant big man. Kobe has not won without a dominant big man.

      Jordan scored 5 more points per game for his career than Kobe has. Jordan averaged a steal more per game, a rebound more per game, and almost half a block more than Kobe. The consensus is almost unanimously Jordan’s Bulls would’ve been favored to win in 1994, 1995 and probably 1999 and 2000 if they had kept the team in tact. That would’ve amounted to a decade of consecutive championships, an astounding feat.

      It’s Jordan, hands down. It’s not even close.

      • steve431968 - Jan 17, 2012 at 8:52 AM

        All of you people that try to compare “Michael Jordan” and “Bobe Bryant” need to realize something. Just as “Muhammad Ali” elevated and transcended, and brought mainstream media attention, as well as unprecedented revenue to the sport of boxing itself – Michael Jordan did for professional basketball. All “Kobe Bryant” will ever be is a “really good basketball player”. He’s just a “cog” in the Machine that Jordan built! The NBA will need a platoon of “Kobe Bryants” to make up for the revenue lost when Jordan retired! The NBA, of course, has GREAT basketball players right now… But there’s no one currently playing that can elevate the league itself! With exception of “Magic Johnson” – Michael Jordan, with his unearthly abilities, is the only ball player that I would’ve paid “MONEY” to see play! All those other guys are just really good ball players… And who cares about that?

    • thesolprovider - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:50 AM

      Phil is working mind games.

      At the same time, Phil knows Kobe is a fraud and a wanna be.

      Refusing to shoot, trashing teammates publicly,wanting a trade when things got too tough, 6-24 game 7’s, …the list goes on.

      Only young kids that don’t really know basketball think otherwise.

      • loungefly74 - Mar 15, 2011 at 9:06 AM

        that’s just ridiculous. a fraud? how so? just admit you hate kobe. the guy could when the next 10 finals and you would still have a reason to find fault.

        6-24? yeah, i remember him getting a dozen rebounds and several assists. you sound young yourself when you blatantly distort stats. by the way, that game was won off the glass…and yeah, the lakers won as well…

  3. musilly - Mar 13, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    People who really “know basketball” can recognize others who do. People who think Kobe and MJ are close–they don’t know ****. They are like self-proclaimed coffee experts who like hazelnut lattes from Starbucks, oenophiles who like two-buck Chuck, and literary types that think Hemingway is the Man. They’re entitled to their opinion, and we are entitled to ignore it.

    • tubal22 - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:17 AM

      You’re in your own sphere.

    • smokehouse56 - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM

      Your comments explain why you are not taken seriously. What’s it like to look down your nose at most everyone? Get a little pride and self respect in what you place here for all to see.

  4. ocgunslinger - Mar 13, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Is there or was there anybody in position of knowing these two athletes better than Phil Jackson? Didn’t think so. I think we can take his statement on these two all time great athletes at face value.

  5. scjgriff - Mar 13, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    Kobe, amazing player, the best of his era. MJ, the best ever. Simple as that.

  6. king3319 - Mar 13, 2011 at 9:59 PM any sport it’s difficult to compare athletes from different times. Even though Kobe & MJ r closer than most it’s a different time. Just like shaq is no wilt..Stockton was no pistol Pete.. But this in no way takes away from their greatness.Kobe is an unbelievable talent & deserves to be in the conversation. Different players in different times can’t be compared too many can’t compare Ruth & Williams to Griffey & jeter. Let’s just appreciate the time we live in and soak in the great things these athletes bring to their performances everyday!!!

  7. corvidae64 - Mar 13, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    Phil Jackson: “Jordan never lost a Finals for me. I should have 13 rings now, dammit! Oh well, Kobe will have to do for this one last time…”

  8. mk2323 - Mar 13, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    Jordan’s game in this “hand check” era would be unstoppable!! He would avg 40 a gm with ease. No other guard should be put in the same sentence as Jordan.

    • therookie773 - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:55 AM

      More like 50 points and I’m not even exaggerating.

  9. manoyski1 - Mar 13, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    MJ was quicker, faster, more explosive, and more lethal than Kobe. Had MJ not left for two years, he would have had 8 championships. Kobe had more superstar support than MJ had in their championship runs. Consider this, Kobe and his star-studded supporting cast almost got swept by the underdog Detroit Pistons in 2004, something MJ would not have allowed. And seeing how Kobe performed in the last few minutes of the Lakers-Heat game the other day, with the succession of turnovers and ill-advised/ill-timed 3-pointers, it’s perfectly clear that 24 is not 23.

  10. thatdude2309 - Mar 13, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    Jordan is the greatest of all time hands down. No one is better than him. He change the game of basketball forever. He set the bar high to high for any one to catch it. You might not love him but u have to respect him and what he did as a basketball player. If not u don’t know anything about basketball

  11. jackrussell22 - Mar 13, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Everyone in LA knows T.J. Simers. He is the columnist for the LA Times that has been bashing Kobe ever since Shaq was traded to Miami in 2004. When Kobe has a great game, T.J. is silent. When Kobe misses a big shot, T.J. is writing an article about how Kobe cost the Lakers the game. I suspect that T.J. took conversations out of context when he had dinner with Phil two nights ago. I sincerely doubt that Phil would make those comments about Kobe…at least not while still coaching the Lakers.

  12. savilo831 - Mar 13, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    Kobe is not jordan here is why; Jordan was the best closer to ever play he had six titles and never lost in the finals! You could argue that jordan would have had eight straight had all not that go on with his father. All his championships never went passed game six, He changed the game of basketball! Yeah kobe can make a turn around jumper from deep beyond the arc but he also misses a lot because he takes a lot. Jordan never would take that type of shot. I just don’t see people wanting to be a kobe when he retires they are still gonna want to be the next Jordan because that person still ain’t around!!!!!!

  13. daninvegas1 - Mar 14, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    Hardcore Lakers fan here… Kobe is good, but he’s not as good as Jordan. Lots of my family and friends try to claim he is the GOAT, not even close. As a longtime NBA aficionado, I can tell you that it’s questionable that Kobe is better even than Magic, much less Jordan. Jordan had a much more all around better game, he was a better defender, better scorer, he knew when to pass the ball, and he didn’t turn the ball over in critical moments of games. Kobe hurst our team as much as he helps it.

    Not even close….

    I just tell it like it is.

    • tubal22 - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:19 AM

      You had me up until “Kobe hurst our team as much as he helps it,”

      You’re saying if you didn’t have Kobe, you’d be right where you are now?

  14. krautmick - Mar 14, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    The dishes are finally done. How can anyone refute the objectivity of a man who has spent more time with both players collectively, than Phil?

    Hopefully all the L.A. homers out there can read this and not overreact. If these quotes by Phil are actually true, then this case is FINALLY closed.

    MJ is the man.

  15. packymalley - Mar 14, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    If its all about rings where is the talk on Bill Russell. I thought LeBron might get there but not anymore. It is hard to belive he has been in the league 8 years already! Rings! It is all about rings!!

    • avermaver - Mar 14, 2011 at 2:09 AM

      It’s not all about rings, Robert Horry, Derrick Fisher, Ron Harper etc are not better players than Ewing or Barkley. It’s a team game

    • smokehouse56 - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:35 AM

      So much for Wilt Chamberlin. Sorry, it’s not all about rings. That’s like saying Ted Williams was a dud. Come on man.

      • cordae - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        Do your homework. Like LeBron, Jordan was ringless his first 7 years. Not saying he is Jordan, but the fact that he doesnt have a ring now means well………nothing..

  16. akismet-9bfac212a93c64c2c1abe56138b8286a - Mar 14, 2011 at 1:54 AM

    LOL, people who compare these two great athletes are either so close-minded that they can’t see the obvious differences between them and give credit where credit is due or just flat out don’t have anything better to do. Sure, they have similarities, but we all know both sides could argue forever until blue in the face!

    Phil Jackson may be the luckiest coach of all time having both players in his roster, but to take even Phil’s word on who’s the best and run with it? I’m certain Kobe nor Jordan would allow it. Who said Phil Jackson gets the final word in this debate anyways?

    Like it or not, the bottom line is that Jordan had his time, now Kobe has his. They’ll both be mentioned in basketball history as two of the most prolific players of their time.

  17. mytthor - Mar 14, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    Are people really making an honest cast for Kobe over Michael? I don’t think so. I don’t think Kobe thinks that, and no one has a higher opinion of Kobe than himself. I’m a huge Kobe fan, but come on.

  18. adamthompson24 - Mar 14, 2011 at 2:36 AM

    Anybody that uses the handcheck argument should also lend credence to the other side of the coin. Illegal defense doesn’t exist anymore (only def 3 sec). Teams zone up and can double early now to stop the best scorers. Jordan would not breeze to 40 a night the way many think. Also the size and length of players on the wing today is vastly improved compared to Jordans era. Imagine how happy Kobe would be today if John Starks was trying to guard him in the playoffs. Post up, two points. Pull up, two points. I still think Jordan is better but people really take ideas and run. The hand check rule is one rule that has helped scorers today. There are many things working against them too. Not sure the title, but there’s a great post on YouTube that shows the difficulty that Kobe faces verses man zones like the Celtics currently run, compared to the strictly man to man defenses of Jordans era.

    • bobzilla83 - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:35 PM

      This zone argument is such bunk. First of all it isn’t a real zone because of the defensive 3 sec. And what people fail to mention is that the zone was allowed in the first place to open up the court; to HELP offenses. It was meant to discourage players from trying to go one-on-one and draining the shot clock, it was meant to speed the pace of the game up from where it was in the late 90s. Besides there are also plenty of videos of how Jordan had to deal with the zone traps that were allowed back then that teams used to employ on Jordan to get the ball out of Jordan’s hands. I actually think Starks would have given Kobe fits because he would have pushed him much further away from the basket than he would get it now. Nevermind the fact that you could actually put 2 arms in the back of a player back then. Who cares if guys are more athletic now, the skill is not what it once was, besides one of the least athletic players (Kevin Love) in the game is leading the league in rebounding. I thought he was one of the slow white guys Jordan used to play with.

  19. ahemahem - Mar 14, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    Bryant plays with much better competition than MJ. There were no DWades, DRose, LeBrons or even KDurants in those days. People tried to compare MJ w Clyde Drexler.

    Drexler was good, but really…

    • nba25k - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:18 AM

      MJ is the greatest of all time!

      There’s no comparison whatsoever. Kobe is not even close. IMO, Kobe is even behind
      Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, & Bill Russell.

    • cordae - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      Lets see..

      Penny Hardaway..
      Isiah Thomas
      Magic Johnson
      Larry Bird
      Clyde Drexler
      THE ADMIRAL!!!! dont even need to put his real name lol

      and those are only the obvious ones that come to mind. No competition? What rock have YOU been from 1985-1999?…

    • ahemahem - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      Penny Hardaway..
      Isiah Thomas
      Magic Johnson
      Larry Bird
      Clyde Drexler
      THE ADMIRAL!!!!

      Penny failed. Didn’t stay long enough. Drexler, not even in the conversation–Paul Pierce is better than he was. The others were on their way out.

      Robinson? C’mon, he’s not even close to the wing. If you’re going there, we need to talk Shaq. Don’t think so.

    • pudgalvin - Mar 14, 2011 at 7:49 PM

      I’ll add on with Barkey, Ewing, Olajuwon, Shaq, Stockton, Malone, Magic and so on and so forth.

      I’ll also add that Kobe’s first three peat came against three of the worst teams ever to make the finals, coupled with a loss to probably the worst team to win a finals in the last 30 years.

      And Clyde Drexler was every bit the player that Dwayne Wade was offensively, and he was a much better defender.

    • ahemahem - Mar 14, 2011 at 8:04 PM

      I’ll add on with Barkey, Ewing, Olajuwon, Shaq, Stockton, Malone, Magic and so on and so forth.

      I’ll also add that Kobe’s first three peat came against three of the worst teams ever to make the finals, coupled with a loss to probably the worst team to win a finals in the last 30 years.

      And Clyde Drexler was every bit the player that Dwayne Wade was offensively, and he was a much better defender.


      Oh, yeah! I forgot about all those times Drexler helped his team win the Larry O’Brien Trophy!

      You keep bringing up people who 1. Are not on the wing and 2. NEVER won a championship.

      • bobzilla83 - Mar 14, 2011 at 9:49 PM

        Drexler helped the Houston Rockets to a championship, fool. Remember ’95 Houston does not win that championship without him, they won it as a 6th seed. Nevermind, he made it to 2 NBA Finals prior to that. That’s at least 2 more than any of the names you put on that list. And the Pistons team they lost to, lost 2 games all post season, with Portland’s other loss coming to Jordan’s Bulls. And who cares if the names galvin mentioned aren’t wings, they all played during Jordan’s era, and all of them are Hall of Famers. Jordan also played when the league was at its tallest, and Kobe never played against any of the types of centers that Jordan faced either. So your comment means nothing

    • ahemahem - Mar 14, 2011 at 9:51 PM

      Ah! Very telling when your case turns to calling people fools.

      This obviously means a lot to you, so congratulations. Have a wonderful night.

      • bobzilla83 - Mar 14, 2011 at 10:30 PM

        I call people fools who try make a case on statements that are blatantly false. And I’m betting you were the one who gave me a thumbs down while giving yourself a thumbs up. And you think this means a lot to me?

        Although, good job trying to make yourself feel better.

  20. rreducla - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:16 AM

    Lifelong Laker fan here.

    Kobe is not as good as Jordan. Not sure why Phil would say it now, but that is Phil being Phil.

    The pathetic anti-KobeSessors in the media:


    Will all enjoy this, especially Simmons, who Phil name-checked.

  21. mytthor - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    Honestly, Jordan also benefitted from being the most athletic player in the league for much of his career. Now every team has a defensive wing specialist with a 42 inch vertical. The Knicks covered him with Starks. Remember the series when they tried Anthony Mason on him? Night in night out, Kobe goes against more athletic players, even if they can’t be as physical with him.

  22. slmike23 - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    Jordan is the greatest wing player ever. That being said Kobe is the closets to him (which is a mile away). Kobe at 32 is more of a complete player than anyone else in the league today. He has that same passion Jordan did, maybe not the sheer will but their hearts come from the same place, the hall of champions….

  23. ahemahem - Mar 14, 2011 at 4:30 AM

    Guys, some of you might as well kiss MJ’s ring, or go leave incense at his United Center statue. Time passes and your imagination grows.

    • avermaver - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      it’s not imagination, watch some old Bulls games on youtube, Jordan dominated both ends of the floor. He could shoot 6 for 20 and lead the team to victory with his all-around game and his opponents genuinely feared his capabilities. There is no other like him though many try, especially Bryant

    • loungefly74 - Mar 19, 2011 at 9:45 PM

      “Guys, some of you might as well kiss MJ’s ring, or go leave incense at his United Center statue. Time passes and your imagination grows.”

      that is a very unpopular thing to say and maybe sacrilegious to some but i gotta say that it took huge ballz to throw that out there. i kinda agree with ya man. i think its something people don’t want to admit. we all know jordan was the greatest but will that mean in another 20 years that we will hear stories about how he was able to float in mid-air for 12 seconds, shot all FT with his eyes closed, and single-handidly destroyed the Death Star? Okay, I’m obviously exaggerating but just trying to make a point.

      another comment said “look at youtube footage”. that’s great but they are only going to post the good stuff on there…not, for example, his struggles against the pistons during the late 80’s…

      actually, i remember, before all the championships for jordan, the big talk was who was better…MJ or Dominique. okay i’m getting side-tracked here. like one comment said earlier…phil knows these guys best and his opinion has probably the most weight and meaning.

      • avermaver - Mar 20, 2011 at 3:33 AM

        actually Bulls games wins and losses are all over youtube. I think Jordan was probably more fun to watch in the late 80s before he bulked up but I wasn’t watching the games at the time, elementary school was more compelling.

        here, have one:

        thing with Jordan is he was a great player from the moment he entered the league regardless of how many games the team won, only person I think is close to him is Lebron though he’s a different kind of player

      • davidly - Mar 20, 2011 at 4:14 AM

        Thanks for that link, avermaver. It effectively answers the “struggles against the Pistons” view, which brings us to:

        MJ was a game changer: Because he was such a phenom, Daley established the “Jordan Rules”. Up until that point in the NBA, logic dictated that you cover the guy as good, switching up with double teams to force the ball out of his hands, and keep everyone else in check. Jordan’s success as dominating the court under those circumstances meant Chuck Daley felt they had no choice but to throw triple-teams at him just to hold him to 30 and keep the game in check.

        Game Changer: Long Shorts (okay, just fashion, but still).

        Most telling in the linked video is the halftime comment from Doug Collins (at 5:25 – notice PJ lurking in the background). Collins said that he wanted “to keep pushing the ball up the floor. I don’t wanna get into a half-court game, because we can’t win that way.”

        Game Changer: Chicago promoted Jackson to head coach the next season, they started running the triple-post, and Jordan had to adapt. After losing to the Pistons again that year, it would have been easy for him to completely lose faith in his coach and “that triangle thing”. We know the rest…

  24. tstreet - Mar 14, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    I think we are all missing the point. Phil is trying to psych Kobe out. He wants Kobe to step up and will this team to a championship. Phil wants to go out in style and all that depends on what Kobe does during the playoffs.

  25. loungefly74 - Mar 14, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Let me start by saying…Lots of great comments!

    That said, Biggest Laker fan in the world and I love Kobe BUT…MJ is the best ever. BUT that’s no knack against Kobe.

    Here is what I see for arguments against MJ…MJ was a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Let’s face it, the talent now in the NBA is by far better than ever. (more foreign/imports…better college kids coming out earlier…better resources/developmental league, etc…) Kobe developed a better all around game earlier in his career than Jordan. MJ didn’t develop his long jump shot till later in his career.

    That said, MJ is still in his own sphere. I’m not going to list out the things that make MJ the greatest (there’s not enough room). If anybody has the best understanding of the 2 players, it’s Phil.

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