With tears streaming down his face, Michael Jordan paid tribute to his “brother” Kobe Bryant in a Monday memorial service.
Bryant broke into an NBA in the 1990s dominated by Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and the two were on the short list of those with claims as the best to play the game.
“Maybe it surprised people … but we were very close friends,” said Jordan.
“Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”
Despite the rivalry, Jordan said Bryant incessantly came to him for advice on shoring up his game.
“At first, it was an aggravation,” he said. “But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know.
“He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be,” Jordan continued. “And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”
Jordan noted that his tears called to mind a famous internet meme of him emotional and red-eyed for his induction to the game’s hall of fame.
“I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I didn’t want to see this for another three or four years,” cracked Jordan, drawing a wave of laughter. “This is what Kobe Bryant does to you.”