Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had a big brother - little brother relationship during the few years their NBA careers were overlapping. The closest such relationship we have seen since is the one LeBron James had developed with Kobe, but this time Kobe was the elder statesman guiding the younger LeBron.
As NBA stars become veterans and see the future of the game develop around them, they often end up helping out standout stars that show promise. The same happened with MJ, who started giving Bryant advice soon after the pair first interacted during the 1998 All-Star game, where the 19-year-old Bryant was voted in as a reserve.
He was going to come after me. And I told everybody, I said, “Look, I know this young kid is going to come at me from L.A., he’s gonna come at me—and I’m not going to hold back.” So in that sense, I feel like I got to protect something. Sure enough, in the game, it was that competition. It was almost like looking in a mirror, in a sense, that, you know—why would I want to play anything less? Why would I want to play anyone less? I want to go at someone who I feel like I respect and I want to challenge. (h/t The Ringer)
Like how Kobe opened the door for LeBron to communicate with him seeing the example Jordan set for him, Jordan did this because Julius Erving had done it to him years prior. After MJ told Bryant to call him whenever he has any questions about the game, Kobe took that offer very seriously.
“At first, he was an irritant, but then, secondly, it became, ‘Man, it’s a sense of respect,’ and I respect him for that and, from that point on, it was I’m going to do whatever I can to help him out... I would lay in my bed after talking to him and say, “Man, man, I mean, that’s pretty cool.” But yet, I don’t know if I could have ever done that where I’m bleeding information from someone. At times, I thought, “Why am I giving away all this information that he’s going to use right against me?” No matter how I’d start the conversation, he knew the answer. It wasn’t like I was telling him anything that he didn’t know. I think I was more or less confirming it."
Bryant was a student of the game and was often compared to Jordan by his peers because of his playing style. Many still believe that Kobe was just the next Jordan in the NBA. While Bryant didn't achieve everything that MJ did, he carved his own lane as a legendary figure in the NBA. However, Kobe did learn a lot from MJ that allowed him to have this impact on the NBA.
As Jordan grappled with whether he should share so much information with Kobe, he didn't realize that Kobe had already learned the one thing he wanted to perfect from MJ. That one thing was the deadly mid-range fadeaway, a shot that is most associated with both Jordan and Kobe.
"The one thing that I did give him that I felt like I regretted—but then again, I appreciated—was his turnaround fadeaway. He learned my move. He learned that to a point where he would use it—relentlessly, especially when you know you’re getting double-teamed. … I took great pride in seeing him utilize that, even though he didn’t do it against me that much."
Kobe didn't use the turnaround fadeaway against MJ as often because they didn't cross paths on the court that often due to them being in opposing conferences. The Lakers weren't competitive enough to make a Finals appearance against the Bulls in the few years the pair shared the floor. Conversely, MJ's Washington Wizards couldn't make the Finals to face Kobe and the Lakers during their three-peat run.
Kobe won five championships to MJ's six and had an imperfect 5-2 record in his ventures. Kobe outscored Michael over the course of their careers, with Kobe sitting #4 all-time and Jordan sitting #5. Jordan won 5 more MVPs than Kobe and also won a Defensive Player of the Year. However, Kobe had a similar cultural impact as MJ and enjoyed periods of dominance, in different ways, on the court.