Kobe Bryant is such a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame lock that, four years from even being eligible for immortality, his only concern is who will present him at the induction ceremony. That’s legend status.
Complex’s Liz Levy smartly posed that question at a recent Nike event in Paris. Bryant’s response:
“In terms of who might present,” said Bryant, “for me it’s two people: Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson. 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.”
Both choices require no explanation and a whole lot of explanation at the same time.
From the moment Bryant entered the league, he was compared to Jordan. Not just because they were both 6-foot-6 shooting guards, but the way Bryant moved, the way he spoke, the way he conducted himself, everything about him seemed as though it was a man trying to play Jordan in a biopic.
Bryant played the role well, surpassing Jordan’s career points total and falling one ring shy of his motivation’s six championships. Jordan knighted him, once calling Bryant the only player deserving of comparison to him and dubbing him “a little brother” in a tribute video before Kobe’s retirement.
“Because as a kid growing up in Italy, all I had was video, so I studied everything,” Bryant said. “I studied every player. Then once I came back to the States [and] I realized I wasn’t going to be 6-9, I started studying Michael exclusively.
“And then when I came to the league and [was] matching up against him, what I found is that he was extremely open to having a mentor relationship and giving me a great amount of advice and an amazing amount of detail, strategies, workout regimen and things like that.
“Seriously, I don’t think people really understand the amount of impact that he’s had on me as a player and as a leader.”
So, it’s only natural he might want Jordan to present him in Springfield in 2021. Of course, we should remember Jordan’s own Hall of Fame induction speech was an awkward one in which he seemed to consider nobody on his level, lambasting friends, foes and former coaches while threatening an NBA comeback at age 50. Although, Jordan has presented before, helping induct Scottie Pippen in 2010.
Jackson, of course, coached both Jordan and Bryant, guiding the latter to all five of his titles from 2000-02 and 2009-10. Jackson and Bryant had a complicated relationship, with the coach calling his star “un-coachable” and admitting he once dreamed of spanking Kobe, and the player describing the coach as someone with whom he wanted no personal interaction and possibly even hated.
So, yeah, both good choices.
Anyway, if you wanted to know whether Bryant can still play ball, here he is at Le Quartier in Paris:
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