Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had a very unique relationship. By the time Kobe entered the NBA, Jordan was a superstar in a league of his own. Jordan was far and away, the best player in the world. And over the years, the two cultivated a very strong relationship with each other.
That bond is still strong to this day. Last year, ahead of Kobe's hall of fame induction, Michael Jordan spoke with Jackie MacMullan about his relationship with Kobe Bryant. He revealed the nature of his final text conversation with Kobe Bryant in the interview.
The final text message, dated Dec. 8, 2019, indicates as much. Kobe sent it to Jordan just after noon, 12:18 p.m. PT.
"This tequila is awesome," Kobe texted, referring to Jordan's Cincoro Tequila, a bottle of which was sent to Bryant at the launch.
"Thank you, my brother," Jordan responded.
"Yes, sir. Family good?" Kobe replied.
"All good. Yours?"
Jordan smiled, then decided to have a little fun. "He was really into coaching Gigi," MJ explains, "so I hit him up about that."
"Happy holidays," Jordan texted back, "and hope to catch up soon. Coach Kobe??!"
"I added that little crying/laughing emoji," Jordan chuckles.
"Ah, back at you, man," Kobe wrote. "Hey, coach, I'm sitting on the bench right now, and we're blowing this team out. 45-8."
Eleven days following that exchange, Bryant learned he had been officially nominated for the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot entry. Forty-nine days later, he was gone.
"I just love that text," Jordan says, "because it shows Kobe's competitive nature."
When asked why he hasn't deleted Kobe's number from his phone, Jordan gave a heartbreaking answer.
"I don't know why, but I just can't delete it."
Clearly, Jordan is still very affected by the loss of Kobe Bryant. During his speech at Bryant's memorial service, Jordan spoke about a different text conversation he had with Kobe about trying to coach his daughter Gianna (6:38 mark).
"I remember maybe a couple months ago he sends me a text and he said, 'I'm trying to teach my daughter some moves. And I don't know what I was thinking or what I was working on, but what were you thinking about when you were growing up trying to work on your moves?' I said 'What age?' He says '12'. I said '12, I was trying to play baseball.' He sends me a text back saying 'Laughing my ass off.' And this is at 2 o'clock in the morning."
The starting point of their relationship came at the 1998 All-Star game, which was Kobe Bryant's first All-Star game, and what many at the time thought would be Michael Jordan's last. The duo went head to head, as Bryant showed no fear for Jordan, and competed with him.
From that point on, Kobe and Michael opened up their channels of communication. Jordan became a mentor for Kobe. Kobe was an athletic shooting guard, whose playing style was eerily similar to Michael Jordan. So Kobe would look to Michael for advice a lot, as Kobe would become Jordan's little brother.