“In loving memory of Kobe Bryant,” is how episode 5 of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary began on Sunday, May 3. Kobe Bryant, along with seven others, including his 14-year-old daughter, Gianna “GiGi” Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA on January 26. Sunday night’s episode explored the special (and private) bond that Michael Jordan shared with Kobe. The late NBA legend appeared in the documentary, and explained how MJ “guided” him to become a 5-time NBA champion.
The setting was the 1998 NBA All-Star game. At the time, MJ and the Bulls were on the verge of a repeat 3-peat and Kobe was a 19-year-old rising star, about to play in his first NBA All-Star game. Ahead of tipoff, MJ discussed Kobe’s already impressive reputation with his All-Star teammates. “That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one-on-one,” he said, proving that he knew Kobe was something special.
Michael, being the ruthless competitor that he is, took on the task of shutting Kobe down. “I’m going to make this sh-t happen,” he said, vowing to “make this a one-on-one game.”
"That little Laker boy's gonna take everybody one-on-one."
— ESPN (@espn) May 4, 2020
During a time-out, MJ was drenched in sweat, clearly having underestimated “that little Laker boy” who was “hauling a**” in the All-Star game. When the team started to comment on how hard Kobe was playing on the offensive end, Michael maintained that would stay on the 19-year-old.
“I’m gonna make this a one-on-one game right now,” he said. And, he did. MJ went off on both ends of the ball and didn’t miss a shot. He ended up winning the 1998 All-Star MVP award.
At the end of the game, Michael and Kobe met to shake hands, and MJ told the young rising star, “I’ll see you down the road.” — A moment that has since become one of the most famous images of the two icons together.
Kobe then appeared on the screen and explained why there’s no Mamba without MJ.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 4, 2020
“I grew up watching Michael on TV and for the chance to go face to face with him… You get a chance to really see, touch and feel strength speed and quickness. It was fun to be out there,” Kobe said about going one-on-one with MJ during the 1998 All-Star game. “It was a rough couple years for me coming into the league. At the time the league was so much older, so no one was thinking much of me. I was a kid who shot a bunch of airballs.”
He explained, “Michael provided a lot of guidance for me. I asked him about shooting his turnaround shot and he gave me a detailed answer… but he said, ‘If you ever need anything you give me a call.’ He’s like my big brother. I truly hate having discussions about who would win one on one… I feel like, what you get from me you get from him, I don’t get 5 championships without him. He’s guided me so much and given me so much great advice,” the late Oscar-winner said, as highlights of him facing off against Jordan played.
Michael and Kobe kept their friendship private through the years. But, Michael shed light on just how close they truly were during his emotional speech at Kobe’s public memorial on February 24. MJ referred to the late Lakers legend as his “little brother.”
“Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I,” Jordan said as he took the podium at Staples Center. “I just wanted to talk about Kobe. I wanted to be the best big brother I could be.”
MJ recalled that the two would talk about everything” from basketball to family and beyond. “He was just trying to be a better person,” Jordan said.
Kobe and his daughter GiGi were two of nine passengers aboard his private Sikorsky S-76 chopper that crashed in the hills of Calabasas, CA on Sunday, January 26. The other victims in the crash were identified as, John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton Chester, 13; Christina Mauser and the pilot, Ara Zobayan. The group was traveling to a basketball game in foggy weather when Kobe’s Sikorsky S-76 chopper fell from the sky.
ESPN will air two new episodes of Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET until May 17. Be sure to check back at HollywoodLife for weekly recaps.