Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were more than just adversaries on the court but great friends outside of it. Kobe entered the league in 1996 when MJ was well into his prime. However, Kobe's rise would see the pair play in All-Star games against each other and build a friendship. Jordan was like an elder brother to Kobe as Bryant tried to emulate his idol's game and surpass him.
Kobe couldn't emulate what MJ did but created an iconic legacy for himself. Rather than stand on top of the MJ pillar, Kobe made a pillar of his own. That reason is why his passing in January 2020 devastated NBA fans around the world. Michael Jordan was left as one of the most devastated, crying during a speech at Kobe's memorial.
Michael Wilbon went on the Road Trippin' podcast and revealed that many people found out about how deep the bond between Kobe and MJ was during that memorial. He followed that up by telling a story of how Kobe once tried proving to Wilbon that he was greater than Jordan at a game at STAPLES Center.
"Kobe idolized him. We saw at the end of that memorial when Michael teared up, more than teared up, cried, that he had been a little brother pain in the ass. That is no exaggeration. During all of this, I was at a game at STAPLES Center and Kobe had 45 and 9, which he could have in a whole bunch of nights. Kobe knew that I thought Jordan will always be the greatest. I talked to him and a line of reporters waiting to get into the locker room... He put an elbow into my back and said, 'would your boy have done that tonight?'"
In many ways, Kobe was the Jordan of the last generation of basketball players. He was a lethal shooting guard that ran up championships and accolades. While he didn't have a 6-0 record or matched the MVPs and Finals MVPs, Kobe's impact on the current generation is incredible.
We have seen how the top stars of the modern era in Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, and even LeBron James, have looked up to Kobe and his achievements. Just like Kobe tried to emulate MJ and imbibed his killer mentality, a whole generation of stars are trying to do the same now.