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"Phil Jackson used to look for players that played multiple sports” - Kobe Bryant once revealed why Phil Jackson wasn’t a fan of players who only knew how to play basketball

The Zen Master knew that basketball players who played other sports had more to offer on the court
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at the Staples Center

Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson

There’s probably no superstar that has spent more time with Phil Jackson than Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Bryant and Jordan won a combined 11 championships under Jackson, who they considered their best coach and mentor.

But Phil had a type

But their all-time great basketball talent wasn't the only reason Phil was able to get the best out of the two. Because Jackson had a type; he preferred those who played multiple sports besides just basketball. 

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Jordan had baseball, while Bryant found a passion for soccer early in his life. According to Bryant, Jackson made it a point to look out for players who played multiple sports because they possessed multiple skill sets and had a broader perspective.

Phil Jackson used to look for players that played multiple sports—he didn’t like players who specialized in one thing because if you specialize in one thing your perspective is very narrow, you think just like everyone else,” Bryant once said in an interview with At Your Own Risk, A safer approach.

“I think that specialization has had a damaging impact on our youth. You can actually see some of the results from me and my generation because at 14, we’re right at the beginning of saying okay athletes need to focus on one sport year round. Fortunately, we have till 14 and 15, I rotated and played different sports,” Bryant added.

The more skills, the better

Bryant has always been open about how other pursuits like soccer and, even to an extent, tap dancing helped him hone his skills (particularly his footwork) and avoid injuries on the basketball court. Aside from broadening the mind, Jackson believed that basketball players who played different sports possessed a vast array of fundamentals, which is an advantage over a common basketball player.

Whether in terms of skillset, footwork, IQ, or mentality, experience gained from different sports was essential to master the art of basketball. MJ and Kobe both had it. But they also had their priorities in order. That allowed Jackson to lead them to 11 championships combined.

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