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Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” doesn’t just pull at the heartstrings.

It yanks at them, from the opening when the words “In loving memory of Kobe Bryant,” appear on the screen. 

The scene then turns to the 1998 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden with Michael Jordan walking in the back hallways with Steve Smith when Kobe Bryant passed them.

“I grew up watching Michael on TV and now you got a chance to go face-to-face with him, you get a chance to really see and like touch and feel – strength, speed, quickness and it was fun to be out there,” a post-career Kobe Bryant tells an interviewer. 

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And then Bryant explained the origin of his relationship that Jordan expounded on in his moving remembrance of Bryant on Feb. 24 in Staples Center – a month after Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash.

“I had a question about shooting his turnaround shot so I asked him about it, and he gave me great detailed answer, but on top of that, he said, if you ever need anything, give me a call. Like my big brother,” Bryant said in “The Last Dance.” “I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one, and your fans saying, ‘Hey Kobe, you’d beat Michael one-on-one.’ I feel like, ‘Yo, what you get from me is from him.’ I don’t get five championships here (with the Lakers) without him because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.” 

The relationship wasn’t well known, but it was pure. Just listen to Jordan from Feb. 24.

“Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends,” he said. “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.”

That little brother, Jordan said, was “a nuisance – if I can say that word – but that nuisance turned into love over a period of time. …

“He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork and sometimes, the triangle. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know.”

It was a surprising and heartfelt speech. You rarely see Jordan in a public setting like that, let alone that emotional.

“As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be,” Jordan continued. “To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person, 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.

“Now, he’s got me (crying) and I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next …  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.   

Jordan confessed: “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. And as I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died, or else you wouldn’t be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from. 

“I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother and I tried to help in every way I could.

“Please, rest in peace little brother.”

Jordan and Bryant faced each other just eight times, according to with Bryant’s teams winning five times. In the first meeting, Bryant had just five points and Jordan had 30. In the final meeting, Jordan scored 23 points for the Washington Wizards, and Bryant dropped 55.

Early in the episode, it’s obvious Jordan sees Bryant’s NBA trajectory. During that All-Star Game, cameras capture Jordan saying, “He don’t let the game come to him. He just go out there and take it. ‘I’m going to make this (expletive) happen. I’m going to make this a one-on-one game.’ ”

Jordan even makes a crack at Bryant’s expense. “If I was his teammate, I wouldn’t pass him the (expletive) ball. You want this ball again brother, you better rebound,” Jordan said.

After that All-Star Game – Jordan won his third and final All-Star MVP – Jordan and Bryant met on the court briefly and Jordan said, “I’ll see you down the road.”

See you down the road, Kobe, see you down the road. 


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