After winning his sixth championship in 1998, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the second time and was a regular fan during the 1998-99 season. During an April game against the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in 1999, MJ had courtside seats at Oracle Arena to watch Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal take on the Dubs.
Jordan and Bryant developed a close relationship during the former’s final year with the Bulls, so the latter was certainly excited to put on a show in front of one of his basketball idols. However, the game didn’t get off to a good start for the Lakers, who not only trailed by 24 points in the second quarter but also lost O’Neal for the night at the 3:09 mark after the superstar center was ejected for fighting.
It appeared the Warriors were well on their way to blowing out the Lakers with Jordan in attendance. However, Bryant had other ideas.
Kobe Bryant led Lakers to overtime victory with Michael Jordan watching after Shaquille O’Neal was ejected
O’Neal was ejected from the game at the 3:09 mark of the second quarter, with the Lakers trailing 47-23. The Warriors went into halftime with a 49-33 lead. Bryant struggled mightily in the first half, finishing with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting. He also had five turnovers.
Several players who struggle in the first half of games tend to get scared to shoot the ball in the second half because they are scared to fail. However, Jordan and Bryant were built differently. Both Hall of Famers never stopped shooting the ball or shied away from pressure, even if they weren’t on top of their games. That’s what made them unique and all-time greats.
Without O’Neal, Bryant went off in the second half against the Warriors. He scored seven points in the third quarter and 16 in the fourth to lead the Lakers on a furious comeback. LA outscored Golden State 57-41 in the second half to send the game into overtime. It was a terrific performance by Bryant, who certainly made Jordan proud by putting the Lakers on his back.
In overtime, the Lakers outscored the Warriors 16-12 and won the game by a final score of 106-102. With Jordan smiling in his courtside seat, Bryant finished the night with 27 points, five rebounds, and five assists while shooting 10-of-17 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Black Mamba also didn’t record a single turnover in the second half or overtime period.
Jordan and Bryant were essentially brothers. The latter called the former his “big brother” in Episode 5 of The Last Dance docuseries. Meanwhile, Jordan delivered a powerful speech at Bryant’s public memorial at Staples Center in 2020.
Michael Jordan was in tears while talking about Kobe Bryant
Jordan cried during his speech at Bryant’s public memorial in 2020. It was an emotional scene for the basketball world watching arguably the greatest player of all time talk about the player who many consider the closest thing we’ll ever see to His Airness.
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” Jordan said. “And as I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died, or else you wouldn’t be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with, and we learn from. I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother, and I tried to help in every way I could. Please, rest in peace, little brother.”
Jordan and Bryant will forever be linked to each other. After all, the latter modeled his game after the former and got five championships out of it.
Lakers legend hated when people talked about who would win one-on-one between him and MJ
In Episode 5 of The Last Dance, Bryant talked about how he hated having discussions about who would win one-on-one between him and Jordan. The Lakers icon said, “What you get from me is from him.”
“He’s like my big brother,” Bryant said about Jordan. “I truly hate having the discussion about who would win one-on-one. What you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
Bryant won five rings and two Finals MVPs with the Lakers. He showed Jordan early on that he was built like him by coming back from 24 points without O’Neal against the Warriors. That’s why MJ and Kobe developed such a brotherhood. Jordan only gave advice to guys he felt loved the game as much as he did, and Bryant clearly fit that bill.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.