In a bittersweet twist, Bryant had also paid tribute to Jordan for ESPN’s wildly popular documentary series The Last Dance—due to premiere last June after the NBA Finals but bumped up to April 2020 to help fill the live-sports void left by the pandemic—in an episode that obviously wasn’t supposed to have to begin with an “In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant” dedication.
“He’s like my big brother,” Bryant said of Jordan in the show. “I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one, fans saying, ‘Hey, Kobe, you’d beat Michael one on one.’ And I feel like, yo, what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him, ’cause he guided me so much, he gave me so much great advice.”
Bryant had just sat down for an interview with the filmmakers weeks before he died. But long before The Last Dance came into focus, the 41-year-old was reportedly very aware of the existence of a treasure trove of Jordan footage shot during the run-up to his sixth and final NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
It’s reasonable to suspect that such knowledge played at least a supporting role in the very private Bryant’s willingness to let cameras document a lot more of his world than they’d been privy to before for the last year of his own career.
As Jordan chuckling (or shaking his head) at old footage shown to him during his own interviews for the series would indicate, sometimes you might miss a few things while you’re living it. And when Bryant hung it up in 2016, somehow 20 years had magically flown by.