As we witness ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’ docu-series, we examine how a young Kobe Bryant became to make himself known as a similar product and icon as the great Michael Jordan.
Their relationship began to develop in the late ’90s when Kobe was early in his career and Jordan was later in his career.
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Kobe caught the eye of the entire league, especially Michael Jordan, when he was voted in as a starter for the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. He became the youngest All-Star in NBA history at 19 years old.
During that game filled with elite talent, Kobe went head-to-head against Jordan and the East by leading the West with 18 points while adding six rebounds and two steals.
However, Jordan seemed to outduel him in the end by scoring 23 points of his own while contributing eight assists, six rebounds, three steals, and earning the win while being named the All-Star Game MVP.
Although Jordan may have gotten the better of Kobe that night, Kobe still made a lasting impression on him that most likely earned his respect.
Little did he know, it would turn into something much bigger than just respect.
As highlighted in ‘The Last Dance’ docu-series, Michael was quoted of saying “I’ll see you down the road” to Kobe Bryant as the two teams were leaving the floor after the game.
Before the 1998 All-Star Game even started, Michael already knew what Kobe was planning on doing.
It seemed as if Michael saw a similar DNA and mentality that he had in him in Kobe Bryant.
Jordan was also Kobe’s biggest idol. He wanted to be like Mike, just like every other young kid in the 90’s.
Kobe performed similar moves while establishing a similar mindset and ultra-competitive drive to Jordan. They were both 6’6″ shooting guards that had the ability to assert dominance and take over games by becoming unstoppable.
Kobe had a strong work ethic that drove him to challenge himself every day and become the best player he could possibly be.
Michael didn’t back down from anybody and let his game do the talking for him. Kobe approached the game the same way and refused to settle.
His competitive spirit was so strong that he challenged his role model himself. Kobe always accepted challenges and looked forward to playing against Michael Jordan when his Los Angeles Lakers met the Chicago Bulls.
It appeared Kobe and Michael developed a strong relationship based on mutual respect during games where they battled each other.
Michael would even give tips to Kobe on his game although they were on opposite teams.
It was truly a magnificent display of basketball to watch Kobe Bryant develop into such a similar figure to what Michael Jordan was.
Some were already calling Kobe the next Michael Jordan. That high praise may not have been given to Kobe if it wasn’t for Jordan’s advice and involvement with his superstar development.
"“What you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here, without him. ‘Cause he guided me so much. He gave me so much great advice.” – Kobe Bryant"
Kobe Bryant was becoming the closest figure in comparison to Michael Jordan, and Michael knew that. To this day, I still believe that he is and I assume Michael does too.
Jordan went from referring to Kobe as that “little Laker boy” to “my little brother.”
One iconic legend learned from another, which transitioned into a special bond between the two.
Kobe Bryant emulated the greatness of Michael Jordan. May he rest in peace.