During Monday’s memorial service honoring Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and the seven others who lost their lives in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26, NBA legend Michael Jordan gave a heartfelt speech about the basketball star, reminiscing about their relationship and what Bryant meant to the world.
“Kobe was my dear friend, he was like a little brother,” Jordan said at the memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles to the thousands in attendance. “When Kobe died, a little piece of me died.”
Jordan spoke about the sibling-like relationship he and Bryant had. He said that Bryant would reach out to him all the time and at all hours of the night to talk about post-up moves or footwork. Jordan said at first it was an aggravation, but that he recognized the passion that Bryant had for the game of basketball.
“This kid had passion like you would never know,” Jordan said. “As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”
Bryant, who modeled much of his game after Jordan, played against Jordan eight times in his career. One of their most notable matchups came in December 1997, when Bryant scored 33 points and Jordan had 36. In their last matchup together in 2003, Bryant scored 55 point against Jordan. Jordan retired for the third and final time at the end of that season.
“Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe,” Jordan said.
Jordan added that they didn’t only talk about basketball, they spoke about business, family and life in general.
“He was just trying to be a better person,” Jordan said.
Jordan related a story from a few months ago when Bryant texted him, asking what kind of basketball moves Jordan worked on when he was 12 so he could better teach Gianna.
“This was at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Jordan said.
As he grew emotional on stage, Jordan joked about the now infamous meme of him crying, and how he didn’t want to see a new one circulating around.
“I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this cause I didn’t want to see that for the next three or four years,” Jordan said. “That is what Kobe Bryant does to me.”
Jordan was one of the handful of athletes and sports figure who spoke during the memorial service that included his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi and Bryant’s wife and Gianna’s mother Vanessa Bryant.