Phil Jackson, a legendary coaching figure in the hoops world with more championship rings than fingers to wear them on, always seemed like a logical candidate to solve the Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant debate.
After all, he had those two heroes of the hardwood to thank for 11 pieces of his jewelry collection.
But now that he's finally entered the conversation in his new book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success (co-written with Hugh Delehanty), giving a decisive edge to Jordan over Bryant in a number of areas (via ESPN.com), it's becoming clear why he stayed so tight lipped for so long.
Bryant, the apparent non-favorite son, took to his official Twitter account to question the entire validity of the argument. Despite the similarities in position and success, the Mamba said the differences between the two all-time greats render this debate moot:
Kobe Bryant @kobebryant
The comparisons are #apples2oranges Wonder what the perception would be if M played wit @shaq instead #differentroles #differentcareerpaths2013-5-17 20:01:01
If anyone could make this a legitimate conversation, though, that person would be Jackson.
He first handled Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, and the pair joined forces in bringing the Windy City six NBA titles. He would go on to coach five more championship clubs with Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers.
But whatever insight or feelings he had about any comparison of the two dominant shooting guards had always been restricted to thoughts or personal conversations that never made their way into the public spectrum.
Now that he's laid everything out on the public forum, there's no more questioning which player Jackson felt was the stronger contributor. He lauded Jordan's leadership skills, defensive acumen and offensive poise as all being superior to Bryant's.
Considering Jackson's slightest chirp, or tweet rather (h/t Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times), constitutes national media attention, it should come as no surprise that his public declaration on this sensitive subject has caused quite a stir.
And Bryant's not the only one questioning Jackson's position.
L.A.'s managing governor and executive vice president of business operations, Jeanie Buss, said he simply got it wrong, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Mike Bresnahan @Mike_Bresnahan
RT @JeanieBuss: @PhilJackson11 Phil, in regards to Kobe vs. MJ - KOBE IS THE BEST. My humble opinion. @kobebryant #Lakers2013-5-17 22:46:07
Why should the opinion of a Lakers' exec carry so much weight in this conversation? Well, because it belongs to none other than Jackon's fiance.
The coach might have some explaining to do on this one.
Well, that or a few sleepless nights on the couch in his near future.