Kobe Bryant memorial: Michael Jordan delivers tearful speech, says ‘a piece of me died’

As each speaker got on stage to share their memories of Kobe and Gianna Bryant inside the Staples Center during Monday’s memorial to honor the nine lives lost on Jan. 26, a new wave of emotion fell over the crowd. Vanessa Bryant delivered an emotional and courageous speech eulogizing her daughter and husband. Beyonce sang one of Kobe’s favorite songs and Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu shared the impact that Kobe had on their lives. 

The details on who would speak were not announced beforehand, so when NBA legend Michael Jordan was introduced by Jimmy Kimmel as the next speaker after Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, it was a bit of a surprise to those inside the arena. Jordan does not typically deliver public speeches these days. The NBA All-Star Game was in Chicago a little over a week ago and fans in attendance were only treated to a recorded video message on the jumbotron.

Jordan was immediately greeted with loud cheers, and what followed was an incredibly touching and raw moment that is rarely ever seen from Jordan. As he began to speak, tears began to stream down his face and his voice was trembling as he was trying to get out the words to best speak on someone who he felt was like a little brother to him. 

In part of Jordan’s speech, he 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. You know all of us have little brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, always tend to get in your stuff. Your closets. Your shoes. Everything. It was a nuisance. But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time. Just because the admiration that they had for you as big brothers or big sisters. The questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life that they were about to embark on. He used to call me, text me at 11:30, 2:30, three in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork and sometimes the triangle. At first, it was an aggravation, then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. 

Jordan went on to talk about how he wanted to be the best big brother he possibly could be to Kobe, while also sharing stories of time spent with him on the court. It was a mesmerizing moment to watch someone like Jordan, who is so often spoken about like this mythological figure because of his inaccessibility, be so personal and vulnerable in his tribute to Kobe. He even provided some much-needed comic relief, referencing the crying Jordan meme that has become synonymous with him on social media, which got a lot of cheers in the crowd.

To end his speech, Jordan spoke of how Kobe inspired him to be a “girl dad” to his six-year-old twin daughters, and how he was just getting started in the next phase of his life after retirement with coaching and his creative endeavors. In the nearly 10 minutes Jordan was on stage, he gave a worthy tribute to Kobe in the words that he spoke, and it was gripping to watch Jordan recognize the bond that ties him and Bryant together.  

“When Kobe Bryant died,” he said, “a piece of me died. And as I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died. Those are the memories we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of know that I had a little brother, and that I tried to help in every way I could. Please, rest in peace, little brother.”  

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