Michael Jordan got emotional during his speech at Kobe Bryant’s memorial at the Staples Center on Monday, joking that he’s giving fans a whole new “Crying Jordan” meme.
“We were very close friends,” Jordan told the huge crowd of Bryant, who died Jan. 26 along with eight others in a devastating helicopter crash, one of those was his young daughter Gianna, 13.
Kobe’s wife Vanessa hosted the livestreamed event, which included performances from Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera as well as speeches from Jordan, Lebron James and Vanessa herself.
“I’ll have to look at another ‘Crying Meme’ now…” Jordan joked, referencing the viral photograph-turned-meme from his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009 and the entire stadium erupted with laughter.
“I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I didn’t want to see that for the next three or four years,” he added. “That is what Kobe Bryant does to me. He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally, even if he’s being a pain in the a**. He can bring out the best in you, and he did that for me.”
“He was like a little brother,” Jordan continued. “You know all of us have brothers, little brothers, little sisters, that for whatever reason tend to get in your stuff, your closets, your shoes, everything … it was a nuisance, if I can use that word. But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time, just because of the admiration they had for you, as big brothers, big sisters. The questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life they were about to embark on … he used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3:30 in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork, and sometimes, the triangle [offense]. At first, it was an aggravation.
“But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had a passion like you would never know. … What Kobe Bryant was for me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and, as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”