Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant's Friendship Detailed by Jerry West, More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2020

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA. Jordan will appear in his 12th NBA All-Star game 08 February while Bryant will make his first All-Star appearance. The Lakers won the game 112-87.  AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI (Photo by VINCE BUCCI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images)
VINCE BUCCI/Getty Images

Anyone watching The Last Dance documentary can tell how difficult it was for other players to get close to Michael Jordan on a personal level.

After all, he was a fierce competitor driven by even the smallest of slights—real or imagined—who looked for any opportunity to bury the competition. That singular drive may be unmatched in NBA history, but it also meant he wasn't exactly someone who willingly doled out advice to his fellow players.

It was different for Kobe Bryant.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN wrote a lengthy piece examining the relationship between Jordan and Bryant in which they called each other "brother" and the Los Angeles Lakers great sought out advice from His Airness whenever there was an opportunity.

While it may have started as something of a nuisance to Jordan, the 57-year-old eventually embraced Bryant, gave him his phone number and shared his insight when it came to basketball.

"If you just watched them interact in a game, Kobe always was like a magnet going toward Michael," said Jerry West, who was the general manager when the Lakers acquired Bryant. "Usually Michael didn't really interact with a lot of players when he was on the court. He'd just play. But for some reason, he had this affinity for him."

Tim Grover, who was a personal trainer who worked with both players, also provided insight into the relationship.

"There's a bunch of other athletes that came up to Michael...that wanted him to 'mentor them,'" Grover said. "But when they found out how difficult it was to maintain that intensity and to be that relentless, most of them faded out. But Kobe kept it up. The more information that Michael gave him, Kobe got even more thirst."

Shelburne noted West was close to both Jordan and Bryant and even met with the former for dinner on Feb. 23—the night before Bryant's public memorial at Staples Center.

"Michael is going to say the right things," West said. "He does have a soul. Most people have placed him in such a higher place in life; they don't think he has this side of him. ... But I think he was truly touched by Kobe."

Jordan gave an emotional speech, opening up about his relationship with Bryant, providing a moment of levity when he joked about his crying meme and saying "when Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died" about his "little brother."

"To see this side of him, it was very revealing—and very touching," West said. 

ESPN @espn

"That little Laker boy's gonna take everybody one-on-one." MJ knew what Kobe was about before the 1998 All-Star Game even started. #TheLastDance https://t.co/mm8XlShwwI

ESPN @espn

"I don't get five championships here without him." #TheLastDance https://t.co/RLcN0gmDrv

The speech made the scenes in Sunday's episodes of The Last Dance all the more poignant with the two superstars going at each other in the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. Jordan warned those in the Eastern Conference locker room that Bryant wasn't going to back down from anyone even though he was 19 years old, something that proved true throughout his career.

The 42-year-old was interviewed for The Last Dance before he died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 and said he would not have won five championships without Jordan's help and advice.

Sunday's episode started with the message "In Loving Memory to Kobe Bryant."