Magic Johnson Discusses Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan's 'Special Relationship'

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 2, 2020

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson has shared details about the bond that formed between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. 

Speaking to Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times in an interview posted Saturday, Johnson noted the relationship started at the 1998 All-Star Game:

"You could see the beginning of this special relationship that was going to take place and start forming then. Kobe respected guys but it was different [with Michael]. He idolized Michael in a way that was different from anybody else. It was like, 'Man, I'm trying to be like you but I also want to show you what I got in this All-Star Game too.' I loved the fact that I was there and I could witness it just like Larry [Bird] and I witnessed during the [1992] Olympics, how we were passing the torch to Michael. Some things you never forget and that was a moment I'll never forget—the torch being passed."

That was Bryant's first time being selected to the All-Star team and marked the last time Jordan would play in the game as a member of the Chicago Bulls

While Johnson knew the two Hall of Famers were close, he told Markazi it wasn't until Jordan spoke at Bryant's public memorial at the Staples Center in February that he knew how deep their relationship went:

"Kobe wanted to go get to that level. That's what he always told me, 'I want to be like you and Michael, not only on the court but I want to be like you guys off the court.' That was one of the last things Kobe told me. He was chasing those six championships and he always wanted Michael's respect. Kobe didn't have a lot of friends but he really had a good friend in Michael. I think they could go to [places in] conversations that nobody could go to, in terms of on those levels. He knew that Michael really cared about him and vice versa, Kobe really cared about Michael."

Jordan gave a tearful speech at the memorial, calling Bryant a "dear friend" and saying he thought of him "like a little brother."

Per Markazi, the fifth episode of The Last Dance, airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, will be dedicated to Bryant. He was interviewed for the series in July 2019. The episode will feature a segment about that 1998 All-Star Game from Madison Square Garden in New York

Jordan was named MVP—the last of his three in his careerafter scoring a game-high 23 points in the Eastern Conference's 135-114 win. Bryant led the Western Conference with 18 points.