It will be incredibly emotional when Kobe Bryant is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Not just for Bryant’s family, who will be celebrating without him, but for Michael Jordan.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa chose Jordan to present Kobe at the ceremony, which will undoubtedly bring up memories of Jordan’s tearful speech at Bryant’s memorial service. Jordan told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in a recent interview that he still gets emotional with it comes to Kobe, even a year after his death.
Jordan also shared something very personal with ESPN: the very last text exchange he had with Bryant. He didn’t know that just after noon on Dec. 8, 2019 would be the last time they communicated, and now he appreciates every nuance of their final conversation.
"This tequila is awesome," Kobe texted, referring to Jordan’s Cincoro Tequila, a bottle of which was sent to Bryant at the launch.
"Thank you, my brother," Jordan responded.
Jordan smiled, then decided to have a little fun. "He was really into coaching Gigi," MJ explains, "so I hit him up about that."
"Happy holidays," Jordan texted back, "and hope to catch up soon. Coach Kobe??!"
"I added that little crying/laughing emoji," Jordan chuckles.
"Ah, back at you, man," Kobe wrote. "Hey, coach, I’m sitting on the bench right now, and we’re blowing this team out. 45-8."
Eleven days following that exchange, Bryant learned he had been officially nominated for the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot entry. Forty-nine days later, he was gone.
"I just love that text," Jordan says, "because it shows Kobe’s competitive nature."
Jordan honored to be representing Kobe
Jordan told ESPN that Vanessa asked him six months ago if he would "stand up for Kobe at the Hall of Fame." Jordan didn’t hesitate.
"It’s going to be a great honor, to be honest. It’s like standing up for a family member. He paid me the highest respect by trying to emulate certain things I did. And I can only repay that by showing my support and admiration for a guy who I felt was one of the greatest to ever play the game."
Standing up for Kobe is an honor, but at one point Jordan was concerned about keeping his composure during the speech. After giving it some thought, he stopped being worried about keeping his feelings in check and decided he wouldn’t hold back.
"I was thinking, at first, I might be a little somewhat nervous about it, but then I realized I’m not going to be nervous about showing emotions for someone I absolutely loved," Jordan says. "That’s the humanistic side of me — people tend to forget I do have one."
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