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Kobe Bryant responds to Michael Jordan comparison from Phil Jackson

May 17, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan

Phil Jackson has a new book coming out, so he will be spending plenty of time talking it up at various media outlets in the coming weeks. The tour has begun in earnest, and the juiciest quotes from the book are beginning to be released.

If there’s one subject Jackson can speak on with absolute authority, it’s the comparison between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — two of the game’s all-time greats that were catalysts for the Hall of Fame coach in winning all five of his Eleven Rings.

Bryant has come up on the short end of some of Jackson’s conclusions, primarily in the areas of defense, social interactions with teammates, and the way he approaches the game in general — the latter of which is explained in the following excerpt from the book, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“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.”

None of it was damning criticism by any means, especially considering how Jordan is considered by many to be not just one of, but the greatest basketball player of all time. Bryant, however, isn’t one to idly stand by while his body of work is being evaluated in even a remotely negative fashion, and has undoubtedly been hearing about Jackson’s comments consistently since they’ve been unleashed.

On Friday, he posted a response.

It’s an interesting hypothetical, and people have definitely downgraded the greatness of Scottie Pippen over time, while conveniently failing to bring up his importance in all of those Bulls championships whenever the Kobe versus MJ conversations take place.

But more than the importance of teammates in Bryant’s role reversal scenario is the fact that Jordan has reached almost mythical status since his playing days have ended. The reality is that no one will ever live up to Jordan’s legend; Bryant has just been the one who’s come the closest.

108 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. mrtreyseven - May 18, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Just a question i want to ask…..MJ has 6 rings/6 Finals MVP’s Kobe Bryant 5 rings/2 MVP’s LeBron 1 possibly 2 rings/ possibly 2 MVP’s… neither Lebron nor Kobe can touch Jordan’s legacy, because Jordan didnt lose a finals series, (Kobe and Lebron did 2 a piece i believe)…Now if LBJ wins this finals & MVP, and wins another next year does that make him better, more dominant, or atleast more effective than Kobe. Because each had their help, but only Kobe played side kick in 3 his finals appearances…I mean im not bashing Kobe he will be a 1st round ballet Hall of Famer but one could argue that he was just as effective as Derrick Fisher, Horry, Harper, I mean he wasnt, but if you arent MVP your name gets lost with the Rest of the Team. Then you become Jordan’s Bulls, SHAQ’s Lakers, or Lebrons Heat team…..just a thought/question i had…

    • bigrele - May 22, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      First off I don’t disagree with you at all when its comparing Lebron & Kobe to Jordan’s greatness cause the fact is: there is NO comparison! However its important you get ur damn facts straight too, Kobe does NOT have 2 MVPs he’s won the award only ONCE! As for Lebron, I’m shaking my head how you can actually spout ur opinion without even checking these guys stats first, Lebron has FOUR/4 MVPs thank you very much! But yeah Kobe rode Shaqs coattails to the first 3 titles & was 2nd fiddle bottom line so technically if ur trying to compare franchise MVP players Kobe vs Jordan then Kobe led his team to two titles where Jordan led his to SIX/6! Holla!

  2. thomaskouns - May 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Kobe fans always point out Kobe’s production this season and last to highlight his greatness.

    In the last three seasons the Lakers haven’t made it out of the first round even when they had a healthy Gasol, Bynum and Odem all healthy – yep, that’s greatness for you.

    I wonder if the Lakers would have advanced farther than the first round the last three strait years if they had Jordan at the same age as Kobe… Of course, and gone a lot farther than round 1…

    • im2gr84u2h8on - May 21, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      Three straight years? WDUM Lakers made it past the first round in the playoffs LAST year under Mike Brown when they lost to OKC after they beat the Nuggets. Know your facts before you speak.

  3. bullysix - May 18, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Here we go again Shaq helped him win 3 titles and he harps on what if MJ had played with Shaq, I don’t get that response.

    • jimeejohnson - May 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      That fine SoCal sunshine has effected Kobe’s thinking.

    • datcrazybok - May 22, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      If MJ had played with Shaq, then me, you, and Brett Pollakoff could be the three other guys on the court, and we’d still win the title every year.

    • pistolj7 - May 23, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      I agree with your sentiment but to say that “Shaq helped Kobe win 3 titles” is like saying that Secretariat helped the jockey win the Triple Crown.

  4. pavelfitzgerald - May 18, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    ” two of the game’s all-time greats that were catalysts for the Hall of Fame coach in winning all five of his Eleven Rings.”
    Make sense much? Winning all 5 of his 11 rings??

    • stan8888 - May 20, 2013 at 3:43 AM

      Kobe Bryant, in reality, wasn’t as big as a factor with the Lakers during their championship runs as perception makes it seem.

      If you took Shaq off the Lakers during their title runs, the Lakers wouldn’t be guaranteed to make the playoffs. When O’Neal was injured during his three peat, the Lakers had a regular-season record of 12-11 (.5217%).

      When Kobe was injured, the Lakers regular season record was 25-7 (.78%). Interestingly, the Lakers’ entire regular-season record during their three-peats was 181-65 (.735%), which is a lower record than when Kobe wasn’t playing. The Lakers therefore actually had a better record when Kobe wasn’t playing.

      This takes into account that during their days playing together their teammates were the same that particular year.

      • pistolj7 - May 23, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Wow! I love facts like this. Kobenatics can’t argue when it’s true.

      • qgarza24 - Jun 7, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Not as big a factor??? Did u even watch these games???

    • topdawg4ever - May 20, 2013 at 5:44 PM

      I didn’t understand that either. He got 6 with the Bulls and 5 with LA.

  5. conjecture101 - May 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Here’s what would happen if Jordan played with a Shaq caliber player the first 8 years of his career: He would have 12 Rings to Kobe’s 5, and 12 Playoff MVP’s to Kobe’s 2.

  6. mustbechris - May 18, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Similar to the Wayne Gretzky legend. Though my dude put up 92 goals in one season. 92! That will never ever happen again. Ovechkin getting 60 was a big deal and Wayne probably did that a dozen times.

  7. purpwalk - May 18, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    when kobe was hurt and out, the lakers still won with shaq, when shaq was hurt and out, the lakers struggled to win with kobe, but kobe was young, developing, and improving while shaq was at his peak. mj was better than kobe, but maybe wilt was better than both, tough call there

    • qgarza24 - Jun 7, 2013 at 1:57 AM

      When Shaq was hurt Kobe took over and carried the Lakers to Victory!!! Indiana

  8. pukpokito - May 18, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    It’s simple Kobe.If Jordan and Shaq played together, Jordan being a leader would have recognized what he had and incorporated Shaq successfully and they would have won More Championships than the 6 he had.There wont be any question with the roles and MJ would have challenged and pushed Shaq to reach greatness he could have further reached.That is what a leader does.

    • Kurt Helin - May 19, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Jordan and Shaq would have killed each other in the locker room. The idea they would have gotten along is crazy — have you seen shaq’s work ethic?

      • kehnn13 - May 22, 2013 at 8:49 AM

        Jordan was already a legend when Shaq came into the NBA. It is very possible that Shaq would have deferred to MJ.

      • doctordunkenstein - May 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        Kurt, don’t you know that nothing is impossible with Michael Jordan. He could turn water into Gatorade, leap tall centers in a single bound, and was faster than a speeding bullet. he was also the world’s greatest teammate, just ask steve kerr. absolutely none of this has been romanticized over the years, it is all true. no one will ever be better than michael jordan.

  9. cantonbound13 - May 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Both are far and away better than LeBron will ever be.

    • 1972sxwife - May 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      No doubt

      • brutl - May 22, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        Did you make another handle just to agree with yourself?
        I’m assuming the 96 thumbs up are from the rest of the Ohio population that is at least semi-literate.

  10. muzzie0323 - May 18, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    I am wondering how Jordan would have been if he wasn’t getting all the favorite call’s he was getting? Kobe has never gotten half the call’s Jordan was use to getting.

  11. drago2012 - May 18, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Brayant and Lebron are MJ wannabe and that is it!. Pippen was better then either of these guys other then MJ. MJ was one for the ages, a true champion of all times. I just wish people would quit comparing Cobey and Lebron to him. Nobody’s ever going to be like MIKE!!!!!

    • 00maltliquor - May 19, 2013 at 1:53 AM

      Cobey Brayant is da besssssssssst! LOL

  12. lilrock9 - May 18, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    What Kobe fails to realize is, as good as he was he wasn’t better than Shaq in his prime, now Mike on the other hand was better than Shaq in his prime. Just a more dominat player. It isn’t even close.

    • 00maltliquor - May 19, 2013 at 1:56 AM

      That kind of falls back to the original argument, what if MJ played with Shaq. That comment just makes the argument go round in circles.

      • at1212b - May 19, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Shaq more dominant than Kobe.
        Kobe defers.

        MJ more dominant than Shaq.
        Shaq defers.

        Shaq tells his grand kids he played with Michael Jordan.
        Shaq is honored.

        Kobe so obsessed with trying to score more now will look even more dumb hobbling his way to beat MJs career points and win more championships. Shaq tells his his grandkids don’t be a foo like Kobe.

        If Kobe didn’t have Shaq, you would see many many more air balls and sweeps in the playoffs on his road to ‘maturity’

  13. bougin89 - May 18, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    Biggest difference between Kobe and MJ for me(and my humble opinion):

    When Jordan was dominating, it was just pure domination, he didn’t have the 32 point games where he took 34 shots to get there…

    MJ was much, much better defensively…maybe it was because he had Scottie Pippen(who, in my opinion, was the best wing defender ever) but he locked down guys and didn’t do the stupid gambles Kobe does.

    MJ was clearly the best player in an era that had many GREAT, GREAT two way players.

    Was Kobe the best of his era? Shaq, Lebron, maybe he was the best for a 2 year period and in that period he didn’t win championships…


  14. billybudd23 - May 19, 2013 at 4:11 AM

    One could argue Wilt Chamberlain, but he was in the early part of the NBA. Lebron James has not played long enough to tell. There are also lots of other great players in the NBA today. Kobe Bryant is one of the top basketball players of all time, but still I think that Michael Jordan stands alone above all. He was simply phenomenal. He just was unstoppable. I think that Kareem Abdul Jabar might be the second greatest. His sky hook was just amazing.

    • topdawg4ever - May 20, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      True. If you try to rank the TOP TEN all time, MJ will at least be up there. Kobe wouldn’t be IMO.

      • qgarza24 - Jun 7, 2013 at 2:11 AM

        Jordan never scored 81!

  15. mrpostman985 - May 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    People seem to forget that mike to some of the same criticism as kobe early in his career…people act like mj neva had a bad game. And to say mj would have to defered to shaq is rediculas but in reality when shaq was in his prime was the most dominant specimen ever…mj is the greatest but he has been made to believe as if he did no wrong..wat if the ref would hav called dat obvious off foul when he pushed off on Russel..mj neva faced the caliber of.perimeter players that kobe has from bron to melo, durant, mcrady , vince, iverson , pierce, wade all super stars in there on right…mike beat a utah team with stockton & jeff hrncek and gaurd for two rings…and defensively we all know pipp had the hardest assignment, early on kobe had no perimeter defender on his team, he was that guy until he got artest!!! But i knw people gonna mike played against magic & bird , the bad boys etc..but he didnt when till he got pipp and magic and bird were old & the bad boys was no longer so bad

  16. rohozx - May 21, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    kome was a verry good MOLESTER in colorado;

  17. dafc0n - May 23, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    What is it about the male ego that can’t allow a fellow peer to be praised without thinking his own legacy, however superb, has been diminished. this is childishly insane.

  18. hoopfan71 - May 30, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    I’ve enjoyed watching both players throughout their careers, and these kinds of debates never have simple answers. One simple question I will ask is that if Kobe is supposedly on MJ’s level, why does he only have one MVP in 17 years vs. MJ’s six in 15 years?

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