Throughout the course of his NBA career, Michael Jordan was the ultimate competitor. As such, his only rapport with most players began and ended with abusing his opponents on the basketball court. But Kobe Bryant was different.
“If you just watched them interact in a game, Kobe always was like a magnet going toward Michael,” former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West told ESPN. “Usually Michael didn’t really interact with a lot of players when he was on the court. He’d just play. But for some reason, he had this affinity for him.”
Their relationship would evolve over time, with His Airness referring to the heir to his throne as his “little brother,” but only after Bryant’s tragic death would we learn how close the two actually were. At Bryant’s memorial service last February, Jordan gave us a glimpse into the bond he shared with his fellow NBA legend.
“Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends,” Jordan tearfully began his moving 10-minute speech. “But we were very close friends.”
And now, with Bryant set to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Jordan will once again honor the five-time NBA champion, as NBA.com reports that His Airness is one of several Hall of Famers who have been tapped to present the 2020 class of honorees:
The 2020 Hall of Fame Inductees and Presenters:
- Patrick Baumann, presented by Russ Granik (’13), Vlade Divac (’19)
- Kobe Bryant, presented by Michael Jordan (’09)
- Tamika Catchings, presented by Alonzo Mourning (’14), Dawn Staley (’13)
- Tim Duncan, presented by David Robinson (’09)
- Kevin Garnett, presented by Isiah Thomas (’00)
- Kim Mulkey, presented by Michael Jordan (’09)
- Barbara Stevens, presented by Geno Auriemma (’06), Muffet McGraw (’17)
- Eddie Sutton, presented by John Calipari (’15), Bill Self (’17), Sidney Moncrief (’19)
- Rudy Tomjanovich, presented by Calvin Murphy (’93), Hakeem Olajuwon (’08)
“We hit it off very well,” Bryant said of Jordan during a 2014 interview with Bleacher Report. “He was really like a big brother, and whether it’s because we see things in a similar way in terms of our competitive spirit or fire or whatever the case may be, there’s an understanding that we have—a connection that we have.”
As we previously reported at The Root, amid COVID-19 concerns, the enshrinement ceremonies for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020—which were originally scheduled for August 28-30 of last year—were pushed back until this spring, and will finally take place on May 15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The delay is unfortunate, but thankfully Bryant and other iconic figures will finally be recognized for the indelible marks they left on the game of basketball.
Jordan presenting Bryant into the Hall of Fame is the perfect conclusion to the 18-time All-Star’s career. Hopefully, it will also provide some form of healing and closure, as Jordan noted that “a piece of him died” with his “little brother.”