Michael Jordan gave a moving speech about his close friend Kobe Bryant during the memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday.
Jordan played an 18-year-old Bryant in 1996, and as emcee Jimmy Kimmel noted, Bryant asked him during the game for tips on his jump shot. Bryant scored 33 points, while Jordan scored 36 to lead the Chicago Bulls to victory.
Jordan was Bryant’s idol and mentor growing up in the game and during his 11-minute speech, the six-time NBA champion shared heartfelt stories about their late-night texts and times together.
“I would say good morning, but it’s afternoon. I’m grateful to Vanessa and the Bryant family for the opportunity to speak today.
“I’m grateful to be here to honor Gigi and celebrate the gifts that Kobe gave us all – 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.
“Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends. But we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.
“You know all of us have brothers and sisters, little brothers, little sisters, who 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 a period of time. Just because the admiration that they have for you as big brothers or big sisters, the questions in wanting to know every little detail about life that they were about to embark on.
“He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork, and sometimes, the triangle. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. It’s an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it. Either ice cream, Cokes, hamburgers, whatever you have a love for. If you have to walk, you would go get it. If you have to beg someone, you would go get it.
“What Kobe Bryant was to me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way either I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.
“To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls, or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person – a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person.
“Now, he’s got me and I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next …
“I told my wife I wasn’t gonna do this cause I didn’t want to see that for the next three or four years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me. I’m pretty sure Vanessa and his friends all can say the same thing – he knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally, even though he’s being a pain in the ass. But you have a sense of love for him and the way that he can bring out the best in you. And he did that for me.
“I remember maybe a couple months ago he sends me a text and he said, ‘I’m trying to teach my daughter some moves. And I don’t know what I was thinking or what I was working on, but what were you thinking about when you were growing up trying to work on your moves?’ I said ‘What age?’ He says ’12’. I said ’12, I was trying to play baseball.’ He sends me a text back saying ‘Laughing my ass off.’ And this is at 2 o’clock in the morning.
“But the thing about him was we could talk about anything that related to basketball but we could talk about anything that related to life. And we, as we grew up in life, rarely have friends that we can have conversations like that. Well, it’s even rarer when you can grow up against adversaries and have conversations like that.
“I went and saw Phil Jackson in 1999, maybe 2000, I don’t know, when Phil was here in L.A. And I walk in and Kobe’s sitting there.
“And the first thing, Kobe said, ‘Did you bring your shoes?’
” ‘No, I wasn’t thinking about playing.’
“But his attitude to compete and play against someone he felt like he could enhance and improve his game, that’s what I loved about the kid. I absolutely loved the kid. No matter where he saw me, it was a challenge. And I admired him because his passion, you rarely see someone who is 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, and what he’s shared with Vanessa, and what he’s shared with his kids.
“I have a daughter who’s 30 and I became a grandparent. And I have two twins. I have twins at 6. I can’t wait to get home to become a GirlDad and to hug them and to see the love and smiles that they bring to us as parents. He taught me that just by looking at this tonight, looking at how he responded and reacted with the people he actually loved. These are the things that we will continue to learn from Kobe Bryant.
“To Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, Capri, my wife and I will keep you close in our hearts and our prayers. We will always be here for you. Always. I also want to offer our condolences and support to all the families affected by this enormous tragedy.
“Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing, After basketball, he showed a creative side to himself that I didn’t think any of us knew he had. In retirement, he seemed so happy. He found new passions. And he continued to give back, as a coach, in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad, amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart. Kobe never left anything on the court. And I think that’s what he would want for us to do.
“No one knows how much time we have. That’s why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment, we must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our families and friends and the people that we absolutely love. To live in the moment means to enjoy each and every one that we come in contact with.
“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, or else you wouldn’t be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from.
“I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother and I tried to help in every way I could.
“Please, rest in peace little brother. ”