Phil Jackson Wanted Kobe Bryant to Play More Like LeBron James

In the HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interview set to air tonight, Phil Jackson had several noteworthy quotes – including calling the New York Knicks ‘clumsy.’ But the one circling the presses today involves Jackson’s former protege and a comparison to Miami Heat star LeBron James.

When asked about Bryant’s shooting mentality compared to the strategy that James often uses – which is getting his teammates involved. Jackson’s comments were supportive of Bryant’s assassin mentality, but also mentioned his hope that Kobe would institute a little more team ball into his game.

“Oh, they’re– they’re using LeBron every possible way they can. He’s such a great player. I still think his game is gonna grow. I still think it’s gonna grow. But he was like Scottie Pippen was to the Bulls. He’s maybe a pass first and shoot second player. Whereas, you know, Michael or Kobe are like, “I’m gonna shoot this ball.” Every time they get the ball, they’re looking to score. LeBron’s not like that. And I love that about him. But he also, when he goes after scoring, he’s also terrific. You want a player that can do both. I tried to get Kobe to do both for numbers of years, and he could. But his first instinct is to beat the guy that’s in front of him.”

Jackson, who coached both Bryant and Michael Jordan, alluded to the similarities in each player’s game. While he certainly appreciates the special mentality that Bryant and Jordan have, as a coach he’s always looking for improvement. James has been a great passer throughout his career, almost to a fault. But there’s no question that team ball is a crucial element in winning.

The desire for ball movement and team-oriented play was a major part of Jackson’s interview, as earlier he mentioned to Andrea Kremer that he doesn’t enjoy watching the NBA as much these days because of the shoot-first mentality and lack of ball movement.

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