Phil Jackson Proves It's All About the Money in Kobe vs. Jordan Debate

Martin TelleriaSenior Analyst IIIMay 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson speaks with Kobe Bryant of the Lakers before the memorial service for Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on February 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Buss died at the age of 80 on Monday following an 18-month battle with cancer. Buss won 10 NBA championships as Lakers owner since purchasing the team in 1979.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Since when did selling out for a few book sales become a practice of Zen?

One thing became clear after Phil Jackson’s declaration of Michael Jordan’s superiority to Kobe Bryant in his new book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, Jackson is more than just a basketball genius.

While Jackson has never been shy to take shots at Bryant, one thing always remained unsaid.  It was something that the majority of us knew, but would find ultimate closure if it came from the mouth of Phil himself.

After all, who better to speak on the two but the man who benefited from eleven rings between the two elite stars?

Well, that closure has finally come.

Speaking on a number of things, ranging from their leadership abilities to their offensive and defensive prowess, Jackson proclaimed Jordan superior in every facet of not just the game of basketball, but as men and leaders as well (via

"One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael's superior skills as a leader," wrote Jackson. "Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence.  Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he'd yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had in his bones."

In terms of their offensive prowess, it was Jordan’s sense of the moment that propelled him past Bryant:

"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."

While I’m not going to argue with someone as accomplished as Jackson, I do recall witnessing plenty of Jordan forcing the action.

It’s not as if I disagree with Jackson’s assessment of the two players. For my money, Jordan is without a doubt the greatest guard in the history of basketball and a top-3 player of all time, behind only the great Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (again, just my opinion, but check the ring count and stats).

It’s the timing that has me irked.

The fame, fortune and jewelry were not enough, apparently, to satisfy Jackson. It would appear that the two have still not done enough for the smuggest of “Zen Masters.” Jackson is now using the same star power that drove him to eleven championships to drive himself to higher book sales.

These are two legends of the game and deserve better than to be used as cash-grabs. More importantly, Bryant deserved better.

It’s not easy to try to emulate greatness. Yet he tried anyway and came as close as anyone ever could. That in itself is a feat that should be celebrated. Instead, Jackson chose to twist that greatness and thereby diminished it.

Jackson has placed Jordan on such a high pedestal that it has marred what he had in Bryant. Bryant should be remembered as Jordan’s closest peer. Instead, Jackson’s book made him out to be far from it.

The worst part of it all was that he did it for his own selfish reasons. Everyone knows that money, perhaps even as much as the rings, drives Jackson. There was a good chance he would have been the coach of the Lakers this season if it wasn't so important to him.

Money was what propelled him to throw one of the greatest stars of my lifetime under the bus. Money tarnished the legacy of Kobe Bryant. Money was all Phil Jackson was after.