Retired Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan haven’t always had a close relationship. Bryant has previously described how as a young player trying to make his mark on the league he wanted to go right at Jordan to “rip his heart out.”
Since then, things have changed. Jordan has retired as arguably the greatest player to ever play, and Bryant finished his career as probably the closest a player has come to emulating Jordan since he hung up his Nikes.
And as Bryant was looking to ascend to the same heights Jordan reached, the two met on the summit. Bryant described to Shaquille O’Neal in their “Players Only” interview how Jordan ended up being one of his biggest mentors during his career:
“When I came in the league, I wanted to take him on. All I ever heard was they called him The Black Panther, the Black Jesus, and all this sorts of stuff, so I wanted to see what this was about. But what happened was that he wound up becoming a big brother to me. He saw something in me that reminded him a lot of himself when he was coming up. He took me under his wing a lot, showed me a lot of things, taught me a lot of things, a lot of leadership things. So when I passed him up, I remember talking to him afterward, it was like he’s still here. Information and the stuff that he’s passed onto me, I’m breathing that spirit back into the game all over again. Which is a lot of the reason why I try to do that now for the next generation. He did that for me, Bill Russell did that for me, Jerry West and all those guys, but Michael in particular.”
Bryant’s reflection was part of his explaining how passing Jordan on the all-time scoring list did not come with the jovial celebration O’Neal and many others may have expected.
Bryant and Jordan are by all accounts two of the most hard-working, dedicated and competitive players to ever set foot on an NBA court, so it’s not exactly surprising they could’ve used that as common ground to bond over.
Although the two NBA legends often speak fondly of each other, they still maintain a competitive edge in certain aspects.
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