In the latest link between basketball legends who regarded each other as brothers, Michael Jordan will serve as the official presenter during Kobe Bryant’s posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next month.
There was never any doubt as to Bryant’s preference; he called Jordan his “big brother” during an interview for “The Last Dance,” the ESPN documentary about Jordan’s career, and described a warm and lengthy friendship amid constant comparisons about their accomplishments by media members and fans.
“I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one,” Bryant said. “What you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships without him. He guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, the other two NBA headliners of the 2020 class, will be presented by David Robinson and Isiah Thomas, respectively. Duncan and Robinson were teammates on the San Antonio Spurs, pairing to win titles in 1999 and 2003. Bryant, Duncan and Garnett were all first-ballot selections.
Jordan spoke at Bryant’s public memorial in February 2020 following the tragic helicopter crash that killed the Los Angeles Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers.
For years, Bryant had patterned his moves and mannerisms after Jordan, and the Chicago Bulls icon recalled 3 a.m. conversations with an eager pupil who shared his competitive spirit and attention to detail.
“This kid had passion like you would never know,” Jordan said. “He wanted to be the best basketball player he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls, the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant.”
At the memorial, which was held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jordan helped Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, from the stage and fought back tears throughout his speech.
“Kobe never left anything on the court,” Jordan said. “I think that’s what he would want for us to do. No one knows how much time we have. That’s why we must live in the moment, enjoy the moment. We must spend as much time as we can with our family and friends. When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. When I look in this arena, or across the globe, a piece of you died.”
Bryant, who died at age 41, was a five-time champion and 18-time all-star during his 20-year career with the Lakers. He ranks fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, one spot above Jordan, and earned the 2008 MVP, two Finals MVPs, 15 all-NBA selections and 12 all-defensive selections during his illustrious career.
Typically, the Hall of Fame presenter is a nonspeaking and ceremonial role. When Jordan was inducted in 2009, he was presented by David Thompson, one of his childhood idols.
The 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was originally scheduled for last August, but it was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The rescheduled ceremony will take place May 15 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
In addition to the three NBA stars, FIBA executive Patrick Baumann will be presented by Russ Granik and Vlade Divac; WNBA star Tamika Catchings will be presented by Alonzo Mourning and Dawn Staley; NCAA coach Kim Mulkey will be presented by Jordan; NCAA coach Barbara Stevens will be presented by Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw; NCAA coach Eddie Sutton will be presented by John Calipari, Bill Self and Sidney Moncrief; and NBA coach Rudy Tomjanovich will be presented by Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon.