Michael Jordan openly wept as he remembered Kobe Bryant at a memorial service Monday, and then lightened the mood by joking that he was going to have to look at another "Crying Jordan" meme as a result.
"I told my wife 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," Jordan said to laughs at a packed Staples Center. "He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally ... even if he’s being a pain in the ass."
Jordan was one of several speakers at the memorial for Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash last month along with seven other people. Thousands attended the memorial at the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team Kobe played with for the entirety of his 20-year NBA career.
Jordan made a reference to the meme of his face, red-eyed with tears streaming down his cheeks, from his 2009 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He also spoke with emotion, describing their decadeslong friendship and how he thought of Bryant as a "little brother."
The two played against each other in the late 1990s and early 2000s before Jordan retired. They are often compared in debates about who was the greatest basketball player in NBA history.
"Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends," Jordan said. "Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe."
Jordan talked about how Bryant, like younger siblings who "for whatever reason always tend to get into your stuff," would often text and call him at odd hours of the night.
"It was a nuisance," Jordan said. "But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time just because the admiration that they had for you as big brothers or big sisters, the questions, the wanting to know every little detail about the life they were about to embark on."
He said that as he came to know Bryant more, he wanted to be "the best big brother that [he] could be."
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," he said. "I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could."