The all-time winningest head coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson, stopped by Fox Sports 1 yesterday to discuss the NBA, the Lakers, Kobe’s injury and some of the all-time greats. In a segment with Gary Payton and host Charissa Thompson, Jackson was given two NBA players and asked to answer which one would win in a battle of one-on-one. Obviously, the segment ended with the two players that have most directly help Phil win 11 NBA Championships: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Phil’s answer was pretty definitive, but the story leading up to it is classic.
First, Jackson sounded off on one-on-one matchup between Shaq and Dwight Howard (picked Shaq); Metta World Peace â€” Payton called him World Metta Peace â€” and Dennis Rodman (Phil didn’t give an answer, he just said they’d be fighting for the ball the whole time); Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (Phil chose Larry because of his outside shooting); LeBron James and Kevin Durant, which we know something about (Phil chose LeBron because he could overpower Durantula).
Now here’s what Jackson said about the single most talked about hypothetical in contemporary NBA history (with a slight edge over LeBron vs. MJ): Kobe Bryant Vs. Michael Jordan. After an anecdote about Kobe and Michael meeting in 1999, which we’ll get to, Thompson pressed Phil: “So who wins, if you have to pick?”
“Nah, it’s gonna be MJ. He’s got that hand. He’s got that â€” the glove as the Glove used to be known [briefly looks at Payton and everyone laughs]. But when a guy can pick the ball up with one hand, when he’s dribbling like Michael could do, and do that [pantomimes waving the ball with one hand] and take the ball to the basket, it’s very difficultâ€””
At that point Thompson interrupted the Zen Master to talk about how much she loved Jordan. That part was hard to watch, and we almost punched the screen, but when she asked Jackson for his favorite MJ moment, it got interesting again. Jackson mentions the last time he was on the court with Jordan in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, but we don’t want to spoil the whole back-and-forth, so just watch.
About that anecdote, though, we have to relay it. When Phil was coaching the Lakers during the 1999-00 season, a year after MJ’s retirement, he asked Jordan to talk with Kobe about waiting to take over games and being more patient with his scoring outbursts. Jordan agreed, and met with Kobe after the game in the late Dr. Jerry Buss‘ room at Staples. The very first thing Kobe said when MJ walked in the room was, “I could kick your ass one-on-one.”
What a terrifically Kobe Bryant thing to do and say. Phil said MJ answered, “You might, you just might. I’ve been out of the game a couple years.” Somewhat more diplomatic than we’re accustomed to hearing from the sociopathic GOAT, but maybe he realized just how good Kobe had already gotten. Still, in the end, Jackson takes MJ in the one-on-one debate that continues to rage even today.
(2:11 for the ancedote about MJ and Kobe talking in 1999; 3:00 minute mark for Phil’s take on hypothetical MJ vs. Mamba one-on-one; 3:21 for Phil’s favorite MJ moment).
Here’s more of Jackson discussing the Lakers, Kobe’s injury, Dennis Rodman‘s antics in North Korea and more…
Phil Jackson is the best…
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