Due to ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the old debate of LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan has been brought up yet again. However, Episode 5 — which aired Sunday night — reminded it is Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant who most often is in the same breath as Jordan.
Episode 5 began with a tribute to Bryant, who tragically lost his life on Jan. 26 with his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other passengers.
It showed Bryant and Jordan meeting at the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. Jordan was in his final season with the Chicago Bulls, and Bryant at the time was the youngest All-Star in NBA history.
Jordan and Bryant went back and forth all game, as Jordan wanted to prove that he was still at the top of his game. And while Jordan certainly got his jabs in at Bryant in the locker room and on the court, he clearly respected the young star.
Bryant spoke about his relationship with Jordan, and discussed the comparisons that often get brought up between the two players, via ESPN:
“It’s like my big brother. I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one, or fans say, ‘Hey Kobe, you’d be Michael one-on-one. I feel like, ‘Yo, what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships without him.’ Because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
For years, especially during Bryant’s prime, there was a constant debate about who would win one-on-one. It was almost as prominent a debate as Jordan vs. James is today.
While Bryant never really expressed his hatred for it at the time, we can now see that he didn’t want to compared in that way to his ‘big brother.’ There’s such a natural tendency to take two great things and pit them against each other that we often forget about the human side of the players that get debated.
Bryant did not want to be known as a guy who could beat Jordan one-on-one, he wanted to be known as the closest thing to Jordan the world has ever seen. There’s no doubting now that he reached that milestone, and it may be a long time before there’s another like them.