Kobe Bryant is possibly one of the greatest NBA players of all-time and the greatest Laker ever. Two jersey numbers in the rafters at the STAPLES Center prove it. Kobe was able to take over games in ways that not many players could.
His drive to win at any cost helped him succeed on and off the court. An 18-time NBA All-Star, five-time NBA champion and one-time NBA MVP, Kobe tragically passed away on January 26, 2020. Kobe’s game was influenced by Michael Jordan, he never denied it.
“Because as a kid growing up in Italy, all I had was video, so I studied everything,” Kobe said in 2016. “I studied every player. Then once I came back to the States, [and] I realized I wasn’t going to be 6-9, I started studying Michael exclusively.”
“And then when I came to the league and [was] matching up against him, what I found is that he was extremely open to having a mentor relationship and giving me a great amount of advice and an amazing amount of detail, strategies, workout regimen and things like that,” Kobe added. “Seriously, I don’t think people really understand the amount of impact that he’s had on me as a player and as a leader.”
Per Los Angeles Times reporter J.A. Adande, “One thing that sticks with me is he (Kobe) talked about how Michael told him at that ‘98 All-Star Game, he said ‘don’t forget to stay aggressive.’”
“And Kobe said, initially he was like, ‘What do you mean stay aggressive? Of course I’m gonna stay aggressive.’ Kobe was almost insulted that Michael felt the need to tell him that,” Adande explained. Kobe eventually understood what MJ meant by telling him to “stay aggressive.”
“And then as the second half of the season went on, and you know, it’s your third game in five days in three cities and all of that stuff that comes with the NBA and you’re just dragging yourself to the arena. And Kobe realized this is what he’s talking about,” Adande added. “That you have to find a way even in these situations to stay aggressive. He was like ‘now I get it.’”
During Bryant’s memorial at the STAPLES Center last February, MJ delivered an emotional eulogy, “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.”