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Phil Jackson Says Kobe Bryant’s Training “Went Beyond” Michael Jordan

There aren’t many people in the NBA with the pedigree — both as a player and a coach — of Phil Jackson. The 13-time champion (11 as a coach, an NBA record, and two as a player for the Knicks) took over as president of basketball operations for the Knicks last spring, and since then he’s assumed total control of the basketball end of the franchise (even keeping egomaniac James Dolan at bay). In the first part of a Q&A with Steve Serby of the New York Post, Phil touched on his time as a coach of both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, offering a unique, and perhaps surprising, perspective when it comes to how both trained.

When Serby asked Phil whether Kobe Bryant might be the model for Carmelo Anthony, Phil clarified how impossible that would be for ‘Melo. Emphasis ours.

Serby: Is Kobe Bryant the model for Carmelo Anthony?
Phil Jackson: No. No one can approach that. I don’t expect anybody to be able to model their behavior after that, although Kobe modeled his behavior a lot about Michael Jordan, but he went beyond Michael in his attitude towards training, and I know Mike would probably question me saying that, but he did.

We’re of the generation that unquestionably denotes MJ as the GOAT. Still, we’ve actually heard before Kobe was more extreme than MJ when it came to pushing his body during workouts. While that’s normally a positive, it’s not always the case.

When we got a chance to train with Tim Grover following the launch of the Nike Kobe IX Elite last year, we did an informal question and answer session with him in the locker-room before hitting the court.

We — like most of the media present — didn’t have a recording device going, so Grover’s word-for-word quote can’t be pinned down. But one person asked Grover what the biggest difference was between MJ and Kobe. Grover sort of smiled and looked around to make sure it was OK to answer truthfully.

We’re paraphrasing from memory here about something Grover said almost a year ago, but he said that while Kobe and Jordan both had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy and drive to push themselves, Kobe never knew when to quit and Michael knew when enough was enough. When we perked up and asked whether Kobe’s zealousness to overtrain might have inadvertently led to him fracturing his left tibial plateau knocking him out for the remainder of last season, he sort of winked and didn’t answer, but his grin said it all.

This isn’t to blame Kobe for a largely contact-free injury from last season after he’d only returned for six games following his Achilles’ tendon tear to end the 2012-13 season. Still, it’s another chapter in the debate between Kobe and MJ that’s raged since Mamba captured his fifth title in 2010 and will probably be argued about until we’ve long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

While Phil isn’t an expert on training and Grover definitely is qualified to make that assessment, both believe Kobe was more radical in his diligence to train. MJ isn’t far behind, obviously, but at least Jordan knew when to toss in the towel and give his body some rest. Not so with Kobe. Whether that might have something to do with Kobe’s injury last season is something we can only speculate about, but it’s worth pondering before he starts the 2014-15 season with training camps opening this weekend.

(New York Post)

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