(CBS) In an interesting tidbit in a wide-ranging interview with the New York Post, Knicks president of basketball operations and Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson said Lakers star Kobe Bryant was the hardest worker he ever coached, even outworking Bulls legend Michael Jordan, perhaps the sport’s most relentless competitor of all time.
Jackson’s answer came in response to a question from writer Steve Serby over whether Bryant is the model for how Knicks star Carmelo Anthony should approach the game.
“No,” Jackson said. “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.”
Jackson coached Jordan and the Bulls to six NBA titles in the 1990s. He directed Bryant and the Lakers to five championships in the 2000s.
Bryant is legendary for his devotion and single-minded dedication to the game, with plenty of anecdotes about his work ethic floating around, including a workout routine that often starts in the wee hours of the morning.
As Jackson pointed out, Jordan might take issue with Bryant working harder off the court, but he’s apparently even acknowledged how maniacal Bryant is, according to Jordan biographer Roland Lazenby.
“Kobe had done the work,” Lazenby told the L.A. Times in 2012. “(Jordan) was very aware and taking in great interest in Kobe Bryant’s great work ethic. Michael Jordan’s work ethic also is legendary. He said Kobe had done that work to deserve the comparison. He says Kobe’s the only one to have done the work.”