Kobe Bryant’s career with the LA Lakers was unmatched by nearly every player in NBA history. This is especially the case when looking at his love and passion for the game and how it translated to winning. However, there was one player whose career did, in fact, compare to Bryant’s. That one player was, of course, Michael Jordan — one of Kobe Bryant’s basketball idols.
Bryant and Jordan ultimately developed a strong relationship with each other, too. That relationship, though, can ultimately be summed up in just one question that Bryant would frequently ask ESPN reporter Michael Wilbon.
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had a strong relationship
Despite Kobe Bryant starting his NBA career when Michael Jordan was close to the end of his — and despite many people constantly comparing the two of them — Bryant and Jordan actually had a really strong relationship.
“If you just watched them interact in a game, Kobe always was like a magnet going toward Michael,” former LA Lakers general manager Jerry West said, according to ESPN. “Usually Michael didn’t really interact with a lot of players when he was on the court. He’d just play. But for some reason, he had this affinity for him.”
The two were even so close that they referred to each other as “little brother” and “big brother,” per ESPN.
“Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends,” Jordan said at Bryant’s public memorial ceremony, according to ESPN. “But we were very close friends.”
Sure, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan were competitive with each other. But they seemed to truly love each other, too, though. In fact, their competitive, loving relationship really showed through the one question that Bryant would always ask ESPN reporter Michael Wilbon.
The Lakers legend always asked Michael Wilbon the same question
On the first anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon appeared on Get Up. He ultimately gave some great insight into Bryant and Jordan’s relationship, too.
“People just didn’t understand the kind of relationship they had; I got a glimpse,” Wilbon said on the Jan. 26, 2021 episode. “… When I went to a Lakers game; Kobe, knowing that I had the relationship for a long time with Michael, if he had a big game, 40, 45 points, a triple-double, who knows; when the media’s lined up outside the locker room, Kobe would often just drift over if he saw me, and I’d get an elbow in the ribs, and he’d lean over where no one else can hear and just say, ‘How would the old man have done tonight?’”
Wilbon continued: “I said, ‘Look, can I talk about this on the air now, or write about it? He said, ‘People aren’t going to understand. They’re going to take it the wrong way.’ He was probably right. I knew how he meant it. I knew of the relationship. But it was so funny; this would happen periodically over the years. ‘How would the old man have done?’ … There was such a reverence, not just a friendship, a reverence for his basketball idol.”
So, how did Jordan feel about this?
“He just loved it,” Wilbon said. “And people did not realize; we weren’t in a social media time for most of that if any of it, and they didn’t realize just how much they adored each other.”
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan definitely had a unique relationship. It appears that Jordan was Bryant’s mentor at first, but then later became his brother. The respect that Bryant had for Jordan ultimately showed greatly through that question he frequently asked Wilbon, too.
It also showed through his play.
Kobe Bryant’s NBA career was comparable to Michael Jordan’s
Kobe Bryant’s respect for the way Michael Jordan played ultimately showed through his own play on the court. He has been the only player to ever come close to resembling Jordan’s style of play, and it eventually led to Bryant having a ton of success.
Bryant earned 18 All-Star selections during his NBA career, led the NBA in scoring twice, and won the league MVP award in 2007-08. Kobe Bryant also led the Lakers to five NBA championships, including one three-peat from 1999-2000 through 2001-02. His 33,643 career points are also fourth all-time.
In comparison, Jordan earned 14 All-Star selections in his career, led the NBA in points per game 10 times, and won five NBA MVP awards. He also ultimately led the Chicago Bulls to six championships, including two separate three-peats, and he won six NBA Finals MVP awards. Jordan’s 30.1 career points-per-game-average is No. 1 in NBA history, and he is fifth in league history in total points scored with 32,292.
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan both ultimately became two of the greatest players in NBA history. While they were certainly competitive with each other, the relationship the two of them had was definitely stronger than some may have realized.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference