As Kobe Bryant works this offseason to prove his critics and doubters wrong–as always–and make a comeback from the same type of ACL surgery that has forced NBA greats–like his rival Shaquille O’Neal–into retirement, he will have some grueling days of rehab where he may just want to throw in the towel and call it a day.
Recovering from a serious injury is never easy, and it is even more difficult when there is turmoil that awaits upon return in Los Angeles with an ownership, coach, and a core group of players that seem ill-suited to carry on Dr. Jerry Buss’s legacy of winning titles with style.
But when Bryant hits that inevitable wall–physically and mentally–while recovering, all he’ll have to do is read a couple of pages from Phil Jackson’s new book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, which comes out this week, to light a fire under him and refuel his rehab efforts.
Jackson wrote his book before Kobe’s injury, and the Zen Master, who is engaged to the daughter of the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss and someone who many in the Laker family believe should run the franchise, may never coach again in the NBA.
But he inadvertently–though one never knows with Jackson–gave Bryant the bulletin board material that he may have needed to return as a dominant player from an injury that has debilitated so many.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, Jackson wrote some choice words when comparing Bryant and Michael Jordan. Some excerpts include:
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson wrote. “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.
- “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.”
Though Jackson found plenty of differences between Kobe and Jordan in favor of Jordan, both superstars are eerily ruthless. And they both have always had a way of even using the slightest slight to motivate them to excel on the court. Off the court, those personality traits got Jordan into trouble–he was a notorious “chase” gambler, for instance.
But on the court, that mindset is what has separated Bryant and Jordan from their contemporaries. And Bryant indicated on Twitter that Jackson’s book has already impacted him. He tweeted on Monday that he has decided to write his “OWN” book. He acknowledged Jackson’s book in other tweets, even throwing out that Jordan may have been perceived differently had he played with Shaquille O’Neal like Kobe had. Kobe also ensured on Sunday that he would not be retiring, as if anyone really thought he would–legends like Bryant and Mariano Rivera will will themselves to ensure they leave their respective sports on their own terms and not due to injuries.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 20, 2013
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 16, 2013
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 17, 2013
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 20, 2013
Phil Jackson has always played the role of the professor and college coach Bryant never had and, to a lesser extent, a father figure, especially when Bryant and is parents were, to put it mildly, not on the best of terms when neither of them attended his wedding because they did not approve of his marrying Vanessa.
From the excerpts, Jackson gives Bryant some tough love in the book. But make no mistake about it, Jackson’s book will be responsible for pushing Bryant to make a more completely recovery and perhaps catch or even surpass some of Jordan’s accomplishments–like his six championships that Kobe has forever chased.