Michael Jordan and his fellow Eastern Conference All-Stars sat in the locker room before the 1998 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden discussing the teenager who had already made a significant impression on the NBA.
“That little Lakers boy is gonna take everyone one-on-one,” Jordan mused to his teammates in footage shared in the fifth episode of “The Last Dance” documentary series on Sunday.
Sure enough, Kobe Bryant, the rising star from the West, would push Michael Jordan throughout the contest in an effort that set his legacy in motion. Bryant would model his game after Jordan and strive to become the type of figure his predecessor grew into through ruthless intensity. Their relationship was that of an older brother and younger brother, equal parts competitive and close-knit.
“The Last Dance” detailed dynamics between Jordan and Bryant. Producers filmed and put together the full episodes with Bryant before he died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and they reportedly left everything intact.
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Jordan’s final season with the Bulls came in 1998, aligning with Bryant’s first All-Star appearance. That created an easy torch-passing narrative from the Bulls legend to the new Lakers star.
Once Jordan returned from retirement in 2001, Bryant was a three-time All-Star and two-time champion, well on his way to his own Hall of Fame arc.
Bryant’s moves — in particular his turnaround jumper — were evolutions of what Jordan perfected.
“What you get from me is from him,” Bryant said in the documentary. “I don’t get five championships here without him. He guided me so much.”
Bryant was given a written tribute by producers at the beginning of the fifth episode.