Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan are known to be very close, but how close really? Michael Wilbon reminisces about their bond.
Kobe never attempted to hide the fact that he was chasing the legacy of His Airness. Michael Jordan was the first player shorter than 6’6″ to win MVP and be the focal point of a championship team.
Naturally, Kobe Bryant wanted to emulate his legacy right from high school. 10 years into his career, Bryant even changed his jersey number from 8 to 24 as a tribute to MJ. Even as a 3rd, 4th year player in the league, Kobe didn’t hide the fact that he was in the GOAT pursuit.
Naturally, this led to him obsessing over Michael, his style of play, how he handled fame and all the works.
Kobe Bryant would always ask Wilbon the same question about Michael Jordan
Wilbon said this in an interview on the anniversary of Kobe’s death:
“People just didn’t understand the kind of relationship they had. I got a glimpse when I went to a Lakers game. Kobe, knowing that I had the relationship for a long time with Michael, if he had a big game, 40, 45 points, a triple-double, who knows?”
“When the media’s lined up outside the locker room, Kobe would often just drift over if he saw me, and I’d get an elbow in the ribs, and he’d lean over where no one else can hear and just say, ‘How would the old man have done tonight?’”
*“I said, ‘Look, can I talk about this on the air now, or write about it? He said, ‘People aren’t going to understand. They’re going to take it the wrong way.’ He was probably right. I knew how he meant it. I knew of the relationship.”
“But it was so funny; this would happen periodically over the years. ‘How would the old man have done?’ … There was such a reverence, not just a friendship, a reverence for his basketball idol.”
Wilbon says that MJ love this adulation poured on him by Kobe Bryant:
“He just loved it,” Wilbon said. “And people did not realize; we weren’t in a social media time for most of that if any of it, and they didn’t realize just how much they adored each other.”