NBA legend Michael Jordan addressed a packed Staples Center crowd during the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, sharing stories of the two competitors and the relationship they shared, referring to Bryant as his 'little brother'.
"Maybe it surprised people … but we were very close friends," Jordan said.
"Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe."
MORE: A Celebration of Life - Kobe and Gianna Bryant
The six-time champion was the player Bryant emulated the most, from his playing style to his mentality, but despite their on-court rivalry, Jordan shared how Bryant relentlessly came to him for advice.
"At first, it was an aggravation," Jordan said. "But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know.
"He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be," he continued. "And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."
🔊🏀 Mic'd up with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game.- NBA History (@NBAHistory) February 16, 2020
🌟: 2020 #NBAAllStar Game
📺: 8pm/et on TNT pic.twitter.com/JkWcTrV6n0
With tears in his eyes, Jordan brought some humour to the crowd, evoking memory of his famous 'crying Jordan' face during his Hall of Fame speech, which became a legendary internet meme.
"Now I'm going to have to look at another crying meme for the next.....," Jordan said with a smile, drawing waves of laughter from the crowd.
"I told my wife I wasn't going to do this because I didn't want to see it for the next three or four years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me."
You can watch his entire speech here:
"As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."- NBA TV (@NBATV) February 24, 2020
Michael Jordan on Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/dTSp7VDosP
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," Jordan added. "Those are the memories we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you from this day forward I will live with the memories of knowing that I tried to help my little brother in every way I could.
"Please rest in peace, little brother."