Michael Jordan made a rare public appearance on Monday to emotionally mourn the death of Kobe Bryant.
Jordan attended Bryant's memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and spoke about his relationship with him. Jordan noted that Bryant was like a little brother to him.
"I'm grateful to be here to honor Gigi and to celebrate the gift that Kobe gave us all: what he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman and as a story-teller, and as a father," he said. "In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor."
"Maybe it surprises people that Kobe and I were close friends, but we were very close friends," he continued. "Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I, but I just wanted to talk about Kobe."
He described their unique relationship, sharing that Bryant would text him at sometimes odd hours in the night about basketball.
"At first it was an aggravation, but then it turned to a certain passion," he said with a laugh. "This kid had passion like you would never know. And it's an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or to try to get it. Either ice cream, cokes, hamburgers, if you have to walk -- you would go get it. If you have to beg someone, you would go get it. What Kobe Bryant was to me is the inspiration that someone truly cared about either the way I played the game or the way 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."
"To do that, you had to put up with the aggravation, the late night calls, and all of the dumb questions," he continued. "I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person and 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."
Jordan also made a joke about his tears, cracking, "Now he's got me -- I'm going to have to look at another crying meme for the next ... I told my wife that I wasn't going to do this because I didn't want to see this for the next three or four years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me."
Still, he continued to be emotional as he talked about his late friend.
"Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing," he shared. "In retirement he seemed so happy. He found new passions and he continued to give back as a coach and in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad, and an amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart. Kobe never left anything on the court and I think that‘s what he would want us to do."
Jordan ended his speech with a plea for everyone to live in the moment.
"No one knows how much time we have," he said. "That's why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment. We must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our families and friends and the people that we absolutely love. To live in the moment means to enjoy each and everyone that we come into contact with. 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 learn from. I promise you that from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother and I tried to help him everywhere I could."
"Please rest in peace, little brother," he concluded as the audience give him a standing ovation.
"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," the statement read. "Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling."
"I loved Kobe -- he was like a little brother to me," Jordan's statement continued. "We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply -- and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball. [My wife] Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world."
Back in 2014, Bryant talked about his special relationship with Jordan before he passed him on the all-time NBA scoring list.
"We hit it off very well," he told Bleacher Report of first meeting the 57-year-old NBA icon. "He was really like a big brother, and whether it's because we see things in a similar way in terms of our competitive spirit or fire or whatever the case may be, there's an understanding that we have -- a connection that we have.
"I don't know if he opened up with me more than he did with other players, I'm not sure," he continued. "I don't know if other players had the balls even to ask. But we have a really, really good relationship."
In 2017, Bryant said he wanted either Jordan or coach Phil Jackson to induct him into the Hall of Fame, following his retirement in 2016 after playing 20 years in the NBA.
"In terms of who might present, for me it's two people: Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson," he told Complex. "They’ve been the greatest mentors, not only in my career as an athlete, but also as a person. And what I might say is just a lot of thank yous. 'Cause I've had a lotta help along the way. A lotta lotta help."
Last month, it was announced that Bryant will posthumously be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
For more on how fellow NBA stars like LeBron James are continuing Bryant's legacy, watch the video below: