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Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant, Not Michael Jordan, Is the Best I've Coached

Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant, Not Michael Jordan, Is the Best I've Coached

Lakers' Triumph Fueled by Bryant's Unprecedented Playoff Performance.

by Nouman Rasool
Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant, Not Michael Jordan, Is the Best I've Coached
© Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Head Coach Phil Jackson shared insights into Kobe Bryant's transformation as the Los Angeles Lakers edged closer to clinching the 2001 Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings. Beyond his scoring prowess, Bryant had matured into a leader, embodying the versatility the Lakers needed.

His ability to score and his newfound playmaking skills positioned him as a pivotal figure for the then-two-time defending champions. In a conversation with ESPN, Jackson lauded Bryant's growth and declared him the most comprehensive player he has ever coached.

"Kobe has emerged as the team's floor leader, a role that demanded someone who could not only score but orchestrate the offense, especially in clutch moments," Jackson expressed.

Bryant's 2001 Mastery

Bryant's performance during the Lakers' 2001 playoff journey underscored Jackson's observations.

Averaging career playoff highs with 6.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds, along with 29.4 points per game, Bryant was instrumental in the Lakers' dominant run. Despite a hiccup in the Finals' opener against Allen Iverson and the Sixers, the Lakers bounced back, securing their third consecutive championship.

While Shaquille O'Neal clinched his third Finals MVP, Bryant's all-around contributions captivated Jackson. Jackson's admiration for Bryant was evident. "I've always challenged Kobe to excel, and he's surpassed those expectations, showcasing unparalleled all-court prowess.

His ability to juggle scoring with facilitating our offense is unmatched," Jackson reflected. When comparing Bryant with Michael Jordan, whom Jackson coached in Chicago, the coach acknowledged Bryant's superior all-around game.

"With Michael, I never had to emphasize playmaking. He was tasked with creating opportunities when facing double or triple teams. Kobe, however, has taken on a broader role, efficiently managing our offense and ensuring team cohesion," Jackson noted.

Jackson's distinction highlights Bryant's skill set and challenges the narrative surrounding his legacy. Often labeled as a scorer first, Bryant's tenure under Jackson reveals a player of profound versatility, arguably surpassing even the legendary Michael Jordan in the realm of all-around ability.

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan Lakers