ESPN’s “The Last Dance” made Michael Jordan the center of basketball conversation for the past several weeks.
Jordan’s killer instinct and will to win – as well as a short segment from the fifth episode – reminded Los Angeles Lakers fans of Kobe Bryant. He exhibited very similar traits from his time with Shaquille O’Neal all the way to the end of his career in 2016.
While Jordan never had a name for his mentality the way Bryant did, the two looked like carbon copies on the court. They both wanted to win no matter the cost, and often made enemies out of teammates because of it. They both could take over a game whenever they felt like it, and both had a tendency to hit immensely clutch shots when the moment called for it.
O’Neal, while watching “The Last Dance,” couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two all-time greats. He believes Bryant and Jordan shared an identical mindset and added that any conversation about the greatest players should have Bryant’s name in it, via “After the Dance with Stephen A. Smith“:
“I would think it’is pretty much equal. I never really spent a lot of time with Mike but, of course, watching him win a championship, watching his demeanor, and watching him wanting the ball at the last second, I would say it’s pretty equal. And Kobe made a great point: we all look at players before us and we take a little something from them. I wanted to be mean like Patrick Ewing in the post, I wanted to run the floor like David Robinson, I wanted to dominate like Wilt Chamberlain.
“The only difference is Kobe was able to have a telephone number and have a relationship with these guys. The rest of us, we just had to see how people emulate other people, and steal what they had. But I’m actually glad they had a relationship. A lot of people always say, ‘Who is the greatest player in the game: Jordan? LeBron?’ I think you must respectfully add Kobe’s name in that conversation.”
Bryant and Jordan’s relationship off the court is well-known at this point, and it’s likely part of what made them so similar on the hardwood.
Bryant, as he always did, set a goal for himself and did everything he could to achieve it. He wanted to be the next Jordan, so he went to icon himself for advice on how to do that. There is nobody that has resembled anything close to Jordan other than Bryant.
That’s also why Bryant has made his way into G.O.A.T. conversations among players and fans, as everybody knows Jordan’s dominance. To see it be replicated so well by Bryant definitely had an effect on those who saw either player first hand.