THROUGH THE LOOKING GOGGLES

Chicago Bulls legend Horace Grant tells MVP that Michael Jordan¬†could have scored 100 points under today’s rules…that Phil Jackson is the greatest coach in the history of the game…and Kobe Bryant is Top 5 all-time.

You won rings with the Bulls in the 90s and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 21st Century. How do you think history will judge those teams?
Looking back, they will both be seen as two teams who were very competitive, teams with great superstars – the Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. The Bulls had 6 championships and right now the Lakers of this era have 5, and they’re trying to win 6. They’re two very good basketball franchises – and wonderful teams to play on.

Horace was a key part of the Bulls' first three-peatImage: NBAE / Getty Images

If the Lakers do win again this season – and equal the Bulls’ six championships – which team will be the greatest?
I would say that just because of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – and me helping them win three [titles] – I would have to say the Bulls. And that’s not taking anything away from the Lakers’ accomplishments.

Was any one championship sweeter than the rest?
Well, I can’t single one out. But I can tell you that after the first one, the rest were very difficult to achieve. Because the Bulls were the ‘home-coming game’, if you will, of every team we played. So we had to be twice – and sometime three times – as tough as any team we played after that first championship. And with the Lakers, they had won one before I got there…and it was the same thing all over again. We had to be twice as tough on the court.

What was it like playing for Phil Jackson – and do you think he should be considered the greatest coach of all-time?
He gets my vote as being the best coach ever. A lot of people say “he had Shaq and Kobe, and Scottie and Michael” – but I say to those critics: those teams had coaches before Phil. And when you win 11 championships with 2 different teams, your record speaks for itself.
Playing for Phil…I can honestly say – and this is no disrespect to some great coaches that I played for – but he was the best. And is the best. He knows how to deal with different personalities. He lets you be yourself. He brings your personality out, but he brings it into a team concept. That’s why it wasn’t difficult for him to coach a guy like Dennis Rodman. Denis was still Dennis, but Phil just calmly told him the concept of winning championships – it’s the team first.

There were always all sorts of rumours about in-fighting amongst the 1990s Bulls – and that Jordan was a nightmare. But what was it really like playing with him?
No, it wasn’t bad at all. In terms of playing with a guy like Michael Jordan – he’s going to get the best out of you. And if he doesn’t, then you don’t belong on that basketball team. If you wanna get the best from him, he’s going to expect to get the best from his team mates. And that’s one reason why I was a part of the first three championships, and why they won three more – because he got the best out of his team mates.

Many of the NBA’s rules and regulations are different today, compared to your era. Michael Jordan said recently he could have scored 100 if today’s rules were in place back then. Do you think he could?
Well, Kobe scored 81, and I’m pretty sure Michael could score 100. And Kobe probably could have scored 100 if Phil Jackson had kept him in the game. Back in the days when I played, it definitely was a lot more physical. Teams were scoring only 80 points a night. It was very brutal, but it was great. I think that now, Commissioner David Stern wanted to bring the game up-tempo a little bit. He wanted to see the guys score more. So there were changes – you know, you couldn’t hand-check and things like that – but Commissioner Stern has done a great job expanding the game, and I think that he’s going to continue to do that.

Where does Kobe rank of the all-great greats list?
Wow! From the all-time great list, he’s somewhere in the top 5. I mean, Michael – from my era – was the best…and still is the best. But Kobe is right there. And I say that sincerely because his competitive spirit can only be taught by Michael Jordan’s competitive spirit.

Grant rates former team mate Kobe Bryant as a Top 5 all-time player Image: NBAE / Getty Images

A lot of people aren’t giving two of your former teams – Chicago and Orlando – much chance of making it out the East come the play-offs. What do you think?
You have Miami, Orlando, Boston and Chicago. I think those four teams right there could easily come out the East. But you have to look at Boston to be favourites, just because of their experience – and they were there last year.
Chicago is a great, up-coming, young team with Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah right there – and Luol Deng. And then you have Carlos Boozer, who hasn’t played yet due to injury.
But then you look at Orlando, of course – with Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson. They could easily come out the East. So I think it’s basically up for grabs with those four teams.

Luol Deng has endured a lot of criticism over the last few years – since signing his big contract. But he’s been hot so far this season. If he keeps up this form, do you think he has a shot at being an All-Star this year?
Most definitely. I have always liked Luol’s game. He’s a slasher, he’s a scorer – and plus he can play defence. After signing that big contract, he just had a down year and a half – and many guys go through that. But right now I think he’s definitely redeemed himself, in terms of coming out this year and just playing some great basketball. And he does have a legitimate shot to make the All-Star team.

What are you up to now?

I train kids on the Central Coast in California, where I live. One-on-one training, junior high school and high school kids. Kids right out of college – if they want to bring their game up to another level, they get in contact with me and I train them. And here in Qatar [where Horace was speaking to us from], on behalf of the NBA Fit programme, I’m talking to kids about eating right, the importance of fitness and the importance of team work and being a good person.

(Top photo: Image courtesy: Jonathan Daniel [ALLSPORT]/NBAE/Getty)

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