This is worth our time and attention. The words are not mine. They are the words of NBA great, Michael Jordan, a man who rarely speaks extensively in public, but this time, with tears generously streaming down his face, at Monday’s memorial service for Kobe Bryant. Note that Jordan and Bryant were considered competitors. Throwing Wilt, LeBron, and others into the mix, onlookers always wanted to argue about who was the greatest.
Not Michael and Kobe. They didn’t argue. Hear Michael’s humbling words. (Please note: all emphasis is mine.)
“… 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 brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters who, for whatever reason, always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word.
But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time, just because the admiration that they have for you as big brothers or big sisters, the questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life that they’re about to embark on. He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning talking about post up moves, footwork, and sometimes the training. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion that you would never know.
It’s amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it, either ice cream, cokes, hamburgers, whatever you have a love for. If you have to walk, you will go get it. If you have to beg someone, you will go get it. What Kobe Bryant was to me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way that I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game.
He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that you have to put up with the aggravation, the late night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business. We talked about family. We talked about everything, and he was just trying to be a better person…
That is what Kobe Bryant does to me… He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally, even though he’s being a pain in the ass. But you have a sense of love for him in the way that he can bring out the best in you. And he did that for me.
… the thing about him was we could talk about anything that related to basketball, but we could talk about anything related to life. And we as we grow up in life rarely have friends that we can have conversations like that [with]. Well, it’s even rarer when you can go up against adversaries and have conversations like that.
… And I admired him because his passion, you rarely see someone who’s looking at trying to improve each and every day, not just in sports but as a parent, as a husband. I am inspired by what he’s done and what he shared with Vanessa and what he shared with his kids. I have a daughter who is 30; I became a grandparent, and I have two twins. I have the twins at six. I can’t wait to get home to become a girl dad, and to hug them and to see the love and the smiles that they bring to us as parents. He taught me that just by looking at this tonight, looking at how he responded and reacted with the people that he actually loved. These are the things that we will continue to learn from Kobe Bryant.
To Vanessa, Natalia, Bianca, Capri, my wife and I will keep you close in our hearts and our prayers. We’ll always be with you, always. I also want to offer our condolences and support to all the families affected by this enormous tragedy.
Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing. After basketball he showed a creative side to himself that I didn’t think any of us knew he had. In retirement, he seemed so happy. He found new passions. And he continued to give back as a coach in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad, amazing husband who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart.
Kobe never left anything on the court, and I think that’s what he would want for us to do. No one knows how much time we have. That’s why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment. We must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our families and friends and the people that we absolutely love. To live in the moment means to enjoy each and every one that we come in contact with…”
Living in the moment… not seeing our adversary as our adversary… learning from them instead… how humbling, refreshing, and insightful…