Phil Jackson never liked to compare Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.
Believe me, I tried everything.
Sometimes I'd ask him after random Lakers practices or before games against Charlotte, the team Jordan owned. Or after games in Chicago, where nostalgia hopefully would add to the mix.
There would be a little nugget here, a tiny nibble there, but nothing that mattered.
It's coming out now, though, in Jackson's 339-page memoir co-written with Hugh Delehanty and available Tuesday: "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success."
MJ vs. Kobe? Here it is from the man who would know best.
"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."
While Jackson coached, he often jabbed at Bryant's seemingly annual appearance on the NBA's All-Defensive team. Now we know why.
"No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense," said Jackson, who coached Jordan to six championships and Bryant to five.
"Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael's tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game. 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."
What about the part of the game where Bryant captivated fans by scoring 81 points against Toronto and 62 in three quarters against Dallas?
Jackson noted the "pronounced" difference in their accuracy, Jordan shooting almost 50% -- an "extraordinary figure" -- while Bryant had been at 45%.
"Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups," Jackson wrote. "Michael was stronger, with bigger shoulders and a sturdier frame. He also had large hands that allowed him to control the ball better and make subtle fakes.
"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."
Among other disclosures in "Eleven Rings:"
--Jackson signed off on Lakers' drafting Andrew Bynum in 2005 but did not like his running gait, which he thought could lead to knee problems.
-- Jackson became more interested in Zen after meeting a practicing construction worker who helped build his lakeside Montana home in the late 1970s.
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