LOS ANGELES (CBS) — At the memorial service for Kobe Bryant on Monday, Michael Jordan called the Los Angeles Lakers legend a “dear friend” who was “like a little brother.”
While Jordan and Bryant never played on the same team, they did face off against each other several times early in Bryant’s career – during Jordan’s final seasons with the Bulls and during his brief return to the NBA with the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s.
Jordan said it might come as a surprise to some, but they were very close friends.
“What he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman and a storyteller, and as a father – in the game of basketball, in life, as a parent – Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor,” Jordan said.
Jordan described their relationship when Bryant first entered the game.
“You know, all of us have brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters for whatever reason always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word, but that nuisance turned into love over time,” Jordan said, adding that Kobe would text him all night asking about post-up moves, footwork and sometimes the triangle offense.
“At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know,” he continued. “It’s an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you will go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it.”
Jordan said futher: “What Kobe Bryant was to me, was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way that I played the game or the way he wanted to play the game. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”
Jordan also talked about Bryant’s bond with his wife and his family. The Bulls legend brought up his own pride to be the father of girls – older daughter Jasmine, and younger twin daughters Victoria and Ysabel.
“I admired him because his passion – you rarely see someone who’s looking and trying to improve each and every day – not just in sports, but as a parent, as a husband. I am inspired by what he’s done; the way he shared with Vanessa; the way he shared with his kids. I have a daughter who’s 30 – I became a grandparent – and I have two twins. I have twins at 6,” Jordan said. “I can’t wait to get home to become a girl dad, and to hug them, and to see the love and the smiles that they bring to us as parents. He taught me that.”
He went on: “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. And as I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died. Those are the memories we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing I had a little brother who I tried to help in any way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother.”
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Jordan was visibly emotional as he spoke, though he poked fun at himself for a moment of levity – referencing the “crying Jordan” meme that has been around for many years.
— Entertainment Tonight (@etnow) February 24, 2020
“I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next…. I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this, because I didn’t want to see this for the next three or four years, “Jordan said. “That is what Kobe Bryant does to me.”
Bryant died last month along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
His memorials service was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
CBS News contributed to this report.