Tearful Michael Jordan remembers deep friendship with Kobe Bryant

Sports | 25 Feb 2020 2:59 pm

Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls star whose career was wrapping up as Kobe Bryant’s was starting in the late 1990s, praised Bryant as “one of my dear friends. He was like a little brother. ... As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.” 

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, TIME magazine reported.

“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.”

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, TIME reported.

Shaquille O’Neal, and Bryant joined the Lakers together in 1996 and won three consecutive championships during eight tumultuous seasons in purple and gold. Although their relationship was often rocky in public, O’Neal said the two were always friendly in private, even comparing their dynamic to John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Calling Bryant “a loyal friend and a true Renaissance man,” O’Neal said the pair “pushed each other to play some of the greatest basketball of all time.”

O’Neal also got the biggest laugh in the somber service with a profane joke about an exchange in which Shaq told Kobe there was no “I” in team, but Bryant responded by noting that there is an “M-E.”

The ceremony began with Beyonce performing her songs “XO” and “Halo” with dozens of backup musicians. Keys performed Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” later in the program, and Aguilera sang “Ave Maria.”

The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history. Lakers star LeBron James surpassed him on the night before Bryant’s death.

Hours before the service, Vanessa Bryant sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in the fog. The wrongful-death lawsuit claimed that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure. A final report is not expected for a year or so.

Money from ticket sales at the sold-out memorial will be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.

Samantha DeJesus, 32, and her brother George Galano, 31, paid US$448 for their two seats. DeJesus said she got notified late that she had received tickets in a lottery and wasn’t sure if she wanted to pay that much.

But the siblings, who saw their first Lakers game at the Forum against the Utah Jazz in the 1990s, said they couldn’t miss it.

DeJesus called the ceremony “very emotional” and cried throughout.

“I loved every single eulogy that was given,” she said. “You knew it was meant from the heart.”

Galano said he’s struggled to accept the tragedy since January 26 and the memorial brought him closure. “Now it’s just reality,” he said. “I’m glad they did this so we could move on and heal.”-AP/The Standard 


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