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Phil Jackson Goes Where He Has Never Gone Before

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(FOX 11) In his new book "Eleven Rings," Phil Jackson finally goes where he has never publicly gone.  He answers the question who's better Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? I was able to get an advance copy of the book which hits store shelves on Tuesday, May 21.  In these 2 excerpts, he gives the advantage to Michael Jordan in terms of leadership, and he compares them physically.

"As their coach, it's the differences between them that intrigue me more than their similarities. 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. Kobe is more flexible —hence, his favorite nickname, "Black Mamba."

"One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael's superior skills as a leader. 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. Once he bought into the triangle, he knew instinctively how to get the players on board to make it work. 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. Soon that too would begin to change."

He dedicates several chapters to Kobe Bryant and the evolution of their relationship.  He recalls the height of the Shaq-Kobe fued after 2003-2004 season when he called Kobe "un-coachable." 

"I consulted a psychotherapist, who suggested that the best way to deal with someone like Kobe was to (1) dial back the criticism and give him a lot of positive feedback, (2) not do anything that might embarrass him in front of his peers, and (3) allow him to think that what I wanted him to do was his idea. I tried some of these tactics and they helped somewhat. But Kobe was in heavy-duty survival mode, and when the pressure became unbearable, his instinctive reaction was to lash out. I realized there wasn't much I could do to change his behavior. But what I could do was change the way I reacted to his angry outbursts. This was an important lesson for me. Managing anger is every coach's most difficult task. It requires a great deal of patience and finesse because the line between the aggressive intensity needed to win games and destructive anger is often razor thin."

Kobe must have known what Phil wrote, as excerpts of the book went viral,  he tweeted out a picture of himself with Phil and the words, "Proof that relationships can grow #tbt #mentor #cinco #mjkb #differentanimalsamebeast

He takes the memoir right up to his final season as the Lakers coach, blaming the team's quick departure from the playoffs after being swept by Dallas on his revelation to his team that he had prostrate cancer. 

"I took a seat facing the players and told them what I'd been struggling with for the past two months—something that on a nonverbal, energetic level they'd obviously been picking up. In March I'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For weeks afterward I grappled with how best to proceed. Ultimately, I decided to wait until after the playoffs to have surgery; my doctor had assured me that we could control the growth of the cancer, at least temporarily, with drugs. "This has been a tough period for me," I explained. "And I don't  know if it has affected my ability to give 100 percent of what I normally give you guys. But I know there've been times when I've been more withdrawn than usual."

I began to tear up while I was talking, and the players seemed genuinely moved. Still, looking back, I'm not sure this was the right decision. Although telling the truth is never a mistake, there can be serious repercussions. And timing matters. I wondered if my confession would help unify the team or just make the players feel sorry for me. They'd never seen me before in such a vulnerable state. I was supposed to be the "Zen guy," the man they could always count on to be cool under pressure. Now what were they supposed to think? In retrospect, I should have anticipated what was coming next. But I'd never had one of my teams fall apart in such a strange and spooky way before." 

Here are more excerpts from "Eleven Rings, The Soul of Success"

On the Kobe vs. Michael Jordan legacy

"Ever since Kobe was a rookie, the question of whether he would become "the next Michael Jordan" had been the subject of endless speculation. Now that Kobe's game had matured, this no longer seemed like a frivolous question. Even Jordan has said that Kobe is the only player who can be compared to him, and I have to agree. Both men have an extraordinary competitive drive and are virtually impervious to pain. Michael and Kobe have both played some of their best games under crippling conditions—from food poisoning to broken bones—that would sideline lesser mortals for weeks. Their incredible resilience has made the impossible possible, allowing each of them to make game-turning shots with packs of defenders hanging all over them. That said, their styles are different. Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with his power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups.

The two men relate to their bodies differently as well. Trainer Chip Schaefer, who worked extensively with both players, says that Kobe treats his body like a finely tuned European sports car, while Michael was less regimented in his behavior and given to indulging his taste for good cigars and fine wine. Still, to this day Schaefer, marvels at how graceful Michael was as he moved up the floor. "What I do for a living is all about athletic movement, and I've never seen anybody else move like that," he says. "The only word for it is beautiful."

The differences between Michael's and Kobe's shooting styles are also pronounced. Michael was a more accurate shooter than Kobe. He averaged nearly 50 percent from the field during his career—an extraordinary figure—and was often in the 53 percent to 54 percent range during his prime. Kobe averages a respectable 45 percent. But his hot streaks tend to go longer than Michael's did. 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.

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. 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.

On a personal level, 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. 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. During our second run, he became the life of the party.

Both Michael and Kobe have impressive basketball IQs, but I wouldn't call either of them "intellectual" in the conventional sense of the word. Michael attended the University of North Carolina and is gifted at math, but he didn't show much interest in the books I gave him to read while I was his coach. Nor did Kobe, for that matter, though now he picks my brain regularly for book suggestions, especially ones about leadership. Kobe could have attended any college he wanted, but he skipped that step because he was in too much of a hurry to conquer the NBA. Still, he must have wondered whether he made the right choice, because in the summer of 1997 he strapped on a backpack and took a course in advanced Italian at UCLA.

Kobe and the rape charges – an unexpected reaction

"For me, the incident cracked open an old wound that had never fully healed. Several years earlier, when my daughter Brooke was in college, she had been the victim of an assault while on a date with a campus athlete. I had never felt good about my response. Brooke expected me to get angry and make her feel protected. Instead I suppressed my rage—as I'd been conditioned to do during childhood by my parents. In truth, there wasn't much I could have done; the case was in the hands of the campus authorities, and meddling on my part would probably have done more harm than good. Still, burying my fury and maintaining a calm exterior didn't give Brooke any comfort; it left her feeling alone and unsupported. (In the end, after filing a report with the police, Brooke chose not to press charges.)

The Kobe incident triggered all my unprocessed anger and tainted my perception of him."

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