During the 1998 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant matched up in a battle between two of the best shooting guards in the league. Bryant was dubbed the next Jordan since he was an electric scorer and dunker, so it was a must-see matchup.
Not only did Jordan and Bryant lead their teams in scoring, but MJ taught the Black Mamba a lesson, one which Isiah Thomas loved every second of.
Michael Jordan scored a difficult bucket over Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas reacted
Jordan hit a difficult turnaround jumper over Bryant and David Robinson near the end of the second quarter. Thomas, who was calling the game for NBC, knew the message His Airness was trying to send to the young Los Angeles Lakers star.
“Kobe had challenged Michael,” Thomas said during the broadcast. “Michael comes out, and he’s saying, ‘Not tonight, young fella. Uh-uh, Kobe. I got some more tricks left in my bag.’ He’s not ready to leave yet folks.”
Jordan finished with 23 points, six rebounds, and eight assists en route to winning his third All-Star Game MVP. Meanwhile, Bryant put up 18 points, six rebounds, and two steals in his first All-Star contest. It was fun to watch the two legends battle at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena.
Over time, Jordan and Bryant became very close. The latter would ask the former for advice all the time, a subject Black Jesus talked about at Kobe’s public memorial in 2020.
Michael Jordan on Kobe Bryant: “He was like a little brother”
Jordan delivered a moving and powerful speech during Bryant’s public memorial at Staples Center in 2020. The five-time MVP cried nearly the entire time he was at the podium speaking about his “little brother.”
“Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother,” Jordan said. “Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe. He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork, and sometimes, the triangle. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. What Kobe Bryant was to me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way either I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls, or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person – a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person.”
Jordan played an 18-year-old Bryant in 1996 at the United Center. Bryant asked Jordan during the game for tips on his jump shot, and the rest is history.
Black Mamba won five rings, one less than MJ
Bryant is widely recognized as the second greatest shooting guard in NBA history behind Jordan. The Lakers icon won five championships and two Finals MVPs and is the fourth-leading scorer of all time. Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers and averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 1,346 regular-season games.
Jordan, who won six championships and six Finals MVPs with the Chicago Bulls, told ESPN in 2021 that he can’t bring himself to delete his last text message with Bryant. The NBA legend was heartbroken when Kobe and Gigi Bryant tragically died, and it’s certainly not an easy thing to let go.
Both Jordan and Bryant are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Future hoopers will probably watch their highlights on youtube so they can learn how to become better players. After all, Jordan and Bryant were so fundamentally sound and had incredible footwork and touch around the basket.