Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal have brought an unexpected shade of brevity to the sombre memorial service for the late NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.
Both were invited to speak at the public memorial for Bryant and his daughter Gianna, which was held in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning (AEST).
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The ceremony was an opportunity for Bryant’s fans and the public to mourn and honour the fallen Los Angeles Lakers icon who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven others on January 26.
Jordan, who Bryant idolised, spoke about how he had morphed from Kobe’s rival to his mentor.
“In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank,” Jordan said.
“He left it all on the floor. Maybe it surprises people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends. ... He was like a little brother.
“At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into certain passion.
“This kid had passion like you would never know. … As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I can be.”
An emotional Jordan teared up as his speech went on, prompting the six-time NBA champion and Charlotte Hornets owner to go off script and make a joke at his own expense.
As tears began to stream down his face, Jordan joked that he would have to see more ‘crying Jordan’ memes, which originated after he broke down during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009.
"I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme… that is what Kobe Bryant does to me.” - Michael Jordan pic.twitter.com/RHTV9ijLkt— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) February 24, 2020
“Now he’s got me. I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next … I told my wife I didn’t want to do this because I didn’t want to see this for the next three or four years,” Jordan quipped.
Basketball fans and NBA stars who were in attendance could be seen chuckling in the crowd, notably Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, and former Lakers guard Rick Fox.
Shaquille O’Neal tells quintessential Kobe Bryant story
As a young players, Bryant famously never backed down from his more senior teammates, and perhaps Bryant’s greatest teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, used his speech to recall one of the more memorable exchanges he had with his young wingman.
“The day Kobe gained my respect, the guys were complaining, said ‘Shaq, Kobe’s not passing the ball,’” O’Neal said.
“I said ‘I’ll talk to him.’
“I said ‘Kobe. There’s no I in team.’
“Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in there mother f---er.’
“I went back and told Rick [Fox] and Big Shot Bob [Horry], ‘just get the rebound. He’s not passing.’”
WITH YAHOO SPORT US/JASON OWENS