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Were Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant Friends?

Everyone is watching The Last Dance on Netflix at the moment and what a series it is turning out to be a go to series for any basketball fan. However, people would of been surprised to see that Michael Jordan talked about Kobe Bryant in a positive manner. Furthermore, Kobe said he owed his five NBA Championship rings to Michael Jordan and the advice he gave him. This begs the questions were Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant friends?

Were Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant Friends? Yes Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were friends and were in regular contact. This became apparent following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, where Michael Jordan spoke at his memorial service.

How did Michael Jordan, a player in his prime take a young rookie in the form of Kobe Bryant under his wing and how did their friendship blossom so much and largely under the radar. We look closely at how their relationship developed.

Were Jordan and Kobe friends?

After the devastating news of Kobe’s passing in a helicopter crash broke, the basketball world stood still in shock. No matter the age and country, every person having anything to do with basketball knew what Kobe meant to the game, and just how big an impact he made on it and everybody in it. In the following days, the way they honored Kobe, NBA, its fans and community once again showed how tight-knit the basketball fandom really is. To the surprise of many, even though he was a part of a completely different generation, Michael Jordan was one of the people most affected by this tragedy. That was clear in his touching commemorating speech to his “younger brother”:

“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”

For those, however, who closely observed both Jordan and Kobe, it’s easy to see how it was impossible for them not to bond. Their mentality, drive, passion and work ethic were all so similar, which resulted in their game and legacy turning out almost the same, and ultimately in a close and loving relationship formed between the two.

Did Kobe ever play Michael Jordan?

Since Kobe’s emergence came at a time when Michael was entering his final years and on his way toward exiting the league, they shared the stage on only 8 occasions, all of them in the regular season. However, those 8 games were enough to showcase the similarity between the league’s icon at the time, and the one poised to inherit the throne. The summary of those 8 games is contained in the following table:

Kobe Bryant522.
Michael Jordan324.

Having in mind that for the first four of those games, Kobe was too young to have a significant role on the team and that Jordan was a soon to retire Wizard for the last four, these stats can’t really tell us all that much and are slightly misleading. However, the way they went at one another during those games is interesting to watch. Kobe wanted to be like Mike from the moment he got into the league. He idolized him and worked hard in order to mimic the things in Jordan’s game, which made him so good: mid-range jumpers, creating space with post moves and footwork. Since he was never afraid of the moment, Kobe used those games against Jordan to his advantage to see how far he’s come in his attempt to catch Mike. The fact that he scored 5 in their first meeting and 55 in the last is the perfect example of how far he climbed.

Jordan also mentioned that Kobe would text him late at night on how to do a certain move. It became apparent in the memorial service of how close Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were. To the extent they were more than just friends, they were more like brothers to one another.

What Kobe Bryant was to me, was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way I played the game or the way he wanted to play the game.He wanted to be the best basketball player he could be. 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. It took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant, that he was trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything.

When did Kobe and Michael first play each other?

Their first meeting came during Jordan’s second three-peat and Kobe’s rookie year in December, 1996. It was an overtime thriller in which Michael dominated as usual, and which saw Kobe struggle and even miss some crucial free throws. Having said that, Kobe quickly learned how far he has to go, and showed how determined he was to correct those blunders in their next and most significant meeting, which came only a couple of months after the first. Of course, Jordan once again dominated the game with 36 points, but his young rival was ready this time, going off for 33 points, a new career high for him. He also wanted to show each trip down the floor that points are not enough to satisfy him, he wanted to guard and try to prevent Jordan as well. Ultimately, his teammates didn’t show up that game and the Bulls won, but Kobe earned the respect he craved both from his idol and the whole league watching. Particularly interesting was one highlight in which Kobe nailed a Jordanesque fadeaway right over Michael.

“He certainly has a lot of skill, you see that”, Jordan said in an interview after the game. “He’s got a lot of confidence. I think it’s just a matter of time for him. You realize how good he is. He’s actually (old enough to be) in his second year of college.”

Did Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant play all-star games?

Michael and Kobe competed together in three all-star games: 1998, 2002 and 2003. First came in the season when Jordan was in the midst of a three-peat, and the other two during Kobe’s three-peat. By far the most intriguing of the three was the 1998 one, and the newest episode in  Jordan’s documentary “The Last Dance” gave fans glimpses of what occurred that night. That was Kobe’s first selection as an All-Star in his third year, and having in mind all the noise and drama within the Bulls organization, it was rumored to be Jordan’s last.

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant at the 2003 All Star Game

In the locker-room before the game, joking with his eastern conference teammates, Jordan was caught by the camera saying:

“That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one-on-one…he don’t let the game come to him. He just go out there and take it….I’m going to make this a one-on-one. I’m going to make this s—t happen. I’m going to make this a one-on-one game.”

He went on to joke about Kobe’s selfish ways, and one having to rebound at all costs if he wanted to touch the ball with Kobe on his team. The documentary then shows Michael dominating the game and capturing what proved to be his final All-Star game MVP trophy and proving this was still very much his league. The East defeated the West at MSG, 135-114. Jordan scored 23, Bryant scored 18 points, which led the West. The couple embraced after the game and Jordan told him: ”I’ll see you down the road.”

Before his passing, Bryant was also among the ones interviewed in the documentary, and he warmly commented on Jordan’s influence:

He’s like my big brother. I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one, or fans saying, ‘Hey, Kob’, you’d beat Michael one-on-one.’ I feel like, yo, what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.

Who is taller, Kobe or Michael Jordan?

Kobe and Michael are the exact same height: 6 ft 6 in. They were both skinny when they came into the league, and had to gain muscle in order to fight among the trees. But that’s not where the comparison stops. They are without any doubt the two greatest shooting guards in NBA history. Kobe is a 5-time champion, Michael bettering that by one. Both were deadly midrange shooters who never relied on threes, although they could nail them if need be. Both were extremely athletic and won a slam dunk contest. Above all else though, they shared the killer instinct and the hunger to go one on one with the best opposing player. If the game was close, they wanted to be the ones to seal it. Other greats like LeBron, Magic and Russell were all about making the right play, but for Kobe and Michael, the right play was always the one where the ball is in their hands when it matters most. History proved they were right, at least more often than not.

The Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan Photo

This photo was taken in their first match up. Kobe was confident he could stand his own against anyone, but quickly learned he was severely overmatched against Jordan. He was just too quick in the way he delivered his deadly spin moves. Caught off guard, Kobe did what few players ever do, ask an opponent for advice. As they waited for a free throw, hands on knees, Bryant asked Jordan how he manages to make his post moves so devastating. Speaking on that spin move, Kobe recently commented:

“[He would] catch the ball in the corner, screener comes up, he sets the screener around the corner. I’ve seen him pirouette away from the screen so many times. Every time I said, ‘I’m not gonna f*** up that one, just force him over the screen’. ‘Sure as s***, he leaned down like he was going over the screen. And s*** looked so believable, it really did. Like I really thought he was going over the screen. There’s no… that motherf***** spun so fast baseline, he was dunking the ball before I knew what the hell happened.”