Having coached both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant during his NBA coaching career, Phil Jackson is possibly the best person to answer the question of who was the better player, or at least who would win between the two legends in a one on one game.
Jackson came on Fox Sports to address the “burning'” issue, and after sharing a story about Bryant’s confidence and arrogance when meeting Jordan, he mentioned he thinks Jordan was going to be the winner if the two ever played in a 1 on 1 game. He also mentioned that the final 30 seconds in the 1998 NBA finals, as Jordan and the Bulls pulled off a game 6 victory to win a sixth NBA title in eight seasons is his most memorable Michael Jordan moment.
Phil Jackson didn’t use any deep or detailed reasoning as to why Michael Jordan would beat Kobe Bryant. He referred to Jodan’s hands and his ability to pick up the ball with just one hand, but it’s probably deeper than that, and he didn’t feel like sharing.
Players shouldn’t be judged on their titles alone, because they don’t come alone. Both players have had great teammates in the past that helped them pull through: Jordan had Pippen and Grant in the first three-peat; Pippen, Rodman and Kukoc, among others, in the second three-peat.
However, it was slightly different with Bryant. Kobe arrived to the NBA finals much sooner than Jordan in his career, and he wasn’t the best player on the Lakers until Shaquille O’Neal left. He needed a few years and some retooling around him: Pau Gaosl, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and others, to win NBA titles as the number one player on the floor. But was it dominant like Jordan? Probably not.
The best way to exemplify Jordan’s greatness? From koerbchen on reddit: He played 13 seasons for the Bulls. He sat out most of 85/86 because of his broken foot and only played 17 games in 94/95 because of his retirement. So aside from his rookie season he won the scoring title in basically every full season he played for the Bulls.
There’s also the fact that he was scoring 20 points per game after his 40th birthday, something we might not get to see Kobe Bryant do.