A symbolic passing of the torch from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant took place on this date, 23 years ago.
There was an air and a hype built up around Kobe that he would soon be the successor to Michael Jordan’s throne. While his rookie season was quite underwhelming, Bryant had displayed his potential all year long.
So when he met Jordan for the first time after his rookie season, he was ready to ‘take the Bulls by the horns’. It was a regular season game, but it had all the makings of a classic.
The Bulls ran away with the game, trouncing the Lakers 104-83. The loss was understandable, given that the Lakers’ MVP Shaquille O’Neal was unavailable.
How Kobe Bryant measured up to Michael Jordan in 1997 encounter
The Lakers bled a ton of points inside the paint because of the lack of a true rim protector. Luc Longley helped himself to 23 points primarily against the Lakers’ reserve big man, Elden Campbell.
Michael Jordan stole the show with a 12-of-22 shooting performance, resulting in 33 points from the field. In Scottie Pippen’s absence, Toni Kukoc played the role of point forward to perfection, finishing with 8 assists.
But Kobe Bryant stood up and got counted. Coming off the bench, the 19-year-old scored a game-high 36 points for the Lakers. He shot 12-of-20 from the field, and came up with his laurels enhanced in a duel with the GOAT.
23 years ago today.
MJ and Kobe went back-and-forth in one of the most iconic matchups ever 🐍🐐
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 17, 2020
Kobe started the night off with a jumper straight over MJ’s grill from the corner. By the time he shook hands for the last time in the evening with the GOAT, he’d unmistakably stamped his image in MJ’s mind forever.