Skip to content

Phil Jackson compares how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant treated teammates

May 16, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

File photo of Lakers' Bryant yells out in the 4th quarter of their NBA basketball game against the Nuggets

One thing that made Michael Jordan so great was his ability to make his teammates better. Like all superstars, Jordan attracted attention on the court, and that gave the Bulls’ other players room to operate. But unlike, say, Magic Johnson, Jordan didn’t necessarily excel at setting up those open teammates, at least relative to his other elite skills.

Rather, Jordan required his teammates to match his incredibly intense drive.

But demanding so much from his teammates – even punching them in the face when necessary – can be pretty alienating. In his new book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” Phil Jackson explains how Jordan got away with it while comparing MJ to Kobe Bryant. Via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around,” Jackson said in the book, which was obtained in advance by The Times.

“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.”

Not to harp on a relatively minor flaw – keep in mind, compared to the greatest player of all time – Kobe didn’t bring his teammates to his level with the same success. A fun-loving Shaquille O’Neal never matched Kobe’s seriousness, and we still talk about how Smush Parker brought down Kobe rather than how Kobe elevated Parker.

But that’s part of the reason Jordan is the best and Kobe is merely one of the best.

Latest Posts
  1. Lakers sign Wayne Ellington, who played best for Byron Scott

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

    Ellington, who played for Scott with Cavaliers, received partially guaranteed contract

  2. Blake Griffin understands that Los Angeles is still a Lakers’ town

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin AP

    It’s not going to change anytime soon, either.

  3. Report: Jazz to work out John Stockton’s son

    Sep 22, 2014, 6:44 PM EDT

    WCC Basketball Tournament - Championship - Brigham Young v Gonzaga Getty Images

    David Stockton, an undrafted free agent out of Gonzaga, also worked out for Thunder

  4. Bruce Bowen says blame for James Harden’s defense falls on McHale, Rockets

    Sep 22, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    The Rockets’ defensive system is not the problem with James Harden.

  5. Jazz sign Dahntay Jones

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Jones previously played for the Grizzlies, Kings, Nuggets, Pacers, Mavericks and Hawks

  6. Report: Darko Milicic leaving basketball, taking up kickboxing

    Sep 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwovles 2010 NBA Europe LIve Minnesota Timberwovles 2010 NBA Europe LIve

    Former Pistons No. 2 draft pick putting some distance between himself and basketball

  7. Caldwell Jones dies at 64

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs Portland Trailblazers vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Jones – who played for the 76ers, Rockets, Bulls (during Michael Jordan’s rookie season), Trail Blazers and Spurs – helped shape Tim Duncan’s career

  8. Tyson Chandler: ‘I’m going to make’ Mavericks defend

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    Tyson Chandler, Ricky Rubio Tyson Chandler, Ricky Rubio

    Chandler: ‘We are going to be a great defensive team’

  9. NBA to review domestic violence policies in wake of NFL’s ugliness. It shouldn’t have taken that.

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    There were multiple NBA players arrested on domestic abuse charges last year. The spotlight on those cases will be different now.

  10. Nuggets sign forward Marcus Williams

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    Arizona Wildcats v North Carolina Tar Heels Getty Images

    This is the Marcus Williams who played at Arizona, not Connecticut

  11. Cavaliers lift ban on fan who ran onto court with LeBron James shirt

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    A Cleveland Cavaliers fan interrupts play during their NBA basketball game against Miami Heat in Cleveland Reuters

    James Blair can watch LeBron in person in Cleveland again

  12. Blake Griffin said he knew Donald Sterling was racist, wasn’t really surprised by tape

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Blake Griffin GQ

    “The first thing I ever Googled about the man, the first thing that popped up was “racist.” So I was aware. I hate to say this, and it might sound ignorant, but I wasn’t surprised that all this came up.”—Blake Griffin on Donald Sterling

  13. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Chicago Bulls

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards - NBA Global Games Rio 2013 Getty Images

    A healthy D Rose could have the Bulls contending for a title.

  14. Miami to stick with small ball, including Danny Granger getting time at the four

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two Getty Images

    LeBron is gone but Miami is still playing small, pressuring the ball.

  15. Report: Cavaliers signing A.J. Price

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers

    Price will provide point guard depth – at least through training camp

  16. Celtics GM Danny Ainge remains noncommittal on trading Rajon Rondo

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    “The truthful answer is I really don’t know.” —Danny Ainge on potentially trading Rajon Rondo

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2924)
  2. E. Bledsoe (2841)
  3. K. Bryant (2437)
  4. L. James (2371)
  5. D. Rose (2050)
  1. R. Allen (1919)
  2. N. Young (1793)
  3. K. Irving (1636)
  4. B. Jennings (1629)
  5. J. Hickson (1628)