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Kobe Bryant: ‘I Don’t Get Five Championships’ Without Michael Jordan’s Guidance

The fifth episode of The Last Dance opens with Michael Jordan at the 1998 All-Star Game and his interactions with — and private thoughts on — a 19-year-old Kobe Bryant, who was making his All-Star debut.

In the East locker room before the game, Bryant is the chief topic of conversation, with Jordan preparing everyone — including himself — for Kobe inevitably trying to play them 1-on-1 all game, and how he’s going to embrace that challenge.

“That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one-on-one,” Jordan said. “He don’t let the game come to him. He just go out there and take it. I’m gonna make this sh*t happen. I’m going to make this a one-on-one game.”

The locker room discussion on Kobe continued with someone remembering him missing his first four shots in a game they played against him and expecting him to stop shooting, with Jordan chiming in that if he were Kobe’s teammate he would’ve made him stop.

“After his first four attempts? If I was his teammate I wouldn’t pass him the f*ckin ball,” Jordan quipped. “You want this ball again, brother, you better rebound.”

Sure enough, Kobe and Jordan went at each other on the court, with MJ promising to his teammates he’s “gonna make his ass work” on the defensive end before Kobe gets his chance on defense, while Grant Hill explains that he refuses to end up on a poster by jumping with Bryant. Kobe’s remembrance of that All-Star Game was simply how much fun it was for him to be out there with his idol, going toe-to-toe and really understanding what makes Jordan great.

“I grew up watching Michael on TV, and now you got a chance to go face-to-face with him,” Bryant said. “You get a chance to really see and touch and feel strength, speed, quickness. It was fun to be out there.”

While Jordan clearly wasn’t willing to cede his throne to Kobe at the time, that didn’t mean Jordan wasn’t a willing sounding board for the young, rising star. Bryant, whose game was so clearly modeled off of Jordan, explained how helpful Mike was to him.

“It was a rough couple years for me coming into the league, cause at the time the league was so much older. It’s not as young as it is today, so nobody was really thinking much of me,” Bryant recalled. “I was a kid that shot a bunch of airballs, and at that point, Michael provided a lot of guidance for me. Like, I had a question about shooting his turnaround shot, so I asked him about it, and he gave me a great, detailed answer.”

That advice came in a game, and Jordan shared what he told a young Bryant in the postgame interview.

Kobe continued on, noting Jordan was like a big brother to him and said it always made him uncomfortable when fans would ask him things like who would win in a game of 1-on-1.

“But on top of that he said, ‘If you ever need anything, give me a call,’” Bryant remembered. “He’s like my big brother. I truly hate having discussions about who would win one-on-one. You hear fans saying, ‘Yo, Kobe, you’d beat Michael one-on-one.’ I’m like, yo, what you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him, because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”

Jordan’s relationship with Bryant occurred mostly behind closed doors, but we got a glimpse into that relationship during his speech at Kobe’s memorial service, when he called him a “little brother” and offered a tearful tribute to his legacy on and off the court.