The late-great Kobe Bryant modeled his game after Michael Jordan, but when His Airness gave advice to a young Kobe, Black Mamba took the guidance as an insult.
Kobe’s offensive repertoire was obviously influenced by MJ, and he openly admitted it.
“Because as a kid growing up in Italy, all I had was video, so I studied everything,” Bryant said in 2016. “I studied every player. Then once I came back to the States, [and] I realized I wasn’t going to be 6-9, I started studying Michael exclusively.”
“And then when I came to the league and [was] matching up against him, what I found is that he was extremely open to having a mentor relationship and giving me a great amount of advice and an amazing amount of detail, strategies, workout regimen and things like that,” Bryant added. “Seriously, I don’t think people really understand the amount of impact that he’s had on me as a player and as a leader.”
However, the first time that Jordan gave advice to Kobe, the counseling session was not well-received.
The year was 1998, Kobe was matched up against his idol at the NBA All-Star game. That’s when Jordan, a 13-year 35-year-old veteran who was on his way to his sixth and final NBA championship, attempted to mentor the 19-year-old basketball phenom, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history.
According to Los Angeles Times reporter J.A. Adande, “One thing that sticks with me is he (Kobe) talked about how Michael told him at that ‘98 All-Star Game, he said ‘don’t forget to stay aggressive.’”
“And Kobe said, initially he was like, ‘What do you mean stay aggressive? Of course I’m gonna stay aggressive.’ Kobe was almost insulted that Michael felt the need to tell him that,” Adande said this week on the Sports Uncovered podcast series, titled My Favorite Kobe Story.
However, the young Bryant soon understood what the wise Jordan meant by telling him to “stay aggressive.”
“And then as the second half of the season went on, and you know, it’s your third game in five days in three cities and all of that stuff that comes with the NBA and you’re just dragging yourself to the arena. And Kobe realized this is what he’s talking about,” Adande explained. “That you have to find a way even in these situations to stay aggressive. He was like ‘now I get it.’”
Jordan would end up delivering an emotional eulogy at Bryant’s memorial at the Staples Center last February.
“I’ve never heard Michael speak to his emotions like he did,” Adande said of MJ’s eulogy for Bryant. “It was just stunning… how he talked about how it was going to change him and how he was going to try to be a better person. You never heard Michael say this philosophical stuff.”
During the eulogy, Jordan said, “Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends. But we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”