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Michael Jordan tearfully remembers ‘close friend’ Kobe Bryant at public memorial

“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died.”

Michael Jordan speaks during the public wake for Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

A tearful Michael Jordan celebrated the life of his “very close friend” Kobe Bryant in an emotional eulogy Monday at the public memorial for Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in Los Angeles.

“Kobe was my dear friend, he was like my little brother, Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe,” Jordan said at Staples Center, where thousands gathered to honor the five-time NBA champion and loving father known as “Black Mamba.”

Bryant’s longtime idol praised his remarkable passion for the game and life, noting how he used to call at all times looking for advice and perspective.

“I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person,” Jordan said. “A better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family. We talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person.”

Then MJ, realizing he’d broken into tears, brought a bit of levity to the proceedings by joking he was about to be turned into the next Crying Jordan meme.

“Now he’s got me ... I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme. I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I didn’t want to see that for the next 3-4 years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me,” he said.

Jordan, who earlier in the day had another indelible moment when helping Vanessa Bryant off stage following her powerfully loving eulogy to her husband and daughter, also praised Bryant for how much he loved his family.

“Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing. After basketball, he showed a creative side to himself that I didn’t that any of us knew he had. In retirement he seemed so happy, he found new passions and continued to give back as a coach and to his community.

“Most importantly, he was an amazing dad, an amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart.”