Michael Jordan made a rare public appearance on Monday to 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 celebrate the gift that Kobe gave us all," he said, noting his drive to be the best father and basketball player he could be.
"Kobe left nothing in the tank, he left it all on the floor," he shared. " Maybe it surprises people that Kobe and I were close friends but we were very close friends. Everyone wanted to always talk about the comparisons between and I, just wanted to talk about Kobe."
He described their relationship, sharing that Bryant would texting 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. "This kid had passion like you wuold never know., if you love something ... you will go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it ... what Kobe meant to me was that someone cared about how I played the game or how he played the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player he could be, and after getting to know him I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.
Jordan also made a joke about his tears, cracking, "Now I'm going to have to look at another crying meme of myself."
Bryant died on Jan. 26 alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other victims after they were involved in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Jordan's manager released a statement on his behalf shortly after the deaths were confirmed.
"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: