“In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor,” Jordan said at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “Everyone wanted to talk comparisons about he and I. I just wanted to talk Kobe.”
The retired Chicago Bull reminisced about how Bryant, who was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26, used to call and text him at all hours of the day and night to ask about different plays, moves and ways that he could be a better player. Jordan said it was aggravating at first, but his passion brought them together. He said he saw him as a little brother.
“As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late night calls or the dumb questions,” the six-time NBA champ told the audience as images of the two played on the Jumbotron. “I took great pride as I got to know KB. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything and he was just trying to be a better person.”
Though tearful, Jordan gave the crowd a moment of levity as he made a joking nod to a famous meme of him crying.
“Now he got me, I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme,” he joked. “I told my wife I wasn’t gonna do this ’cause I don’t want to look at this for the next three or four years.”
Jordan said Bryant continued to call and text him, even in retirement, to ask about his daughter’s game, family and a range of other things. They could talk about anything, Jordan said, noting how rare that is for people who are considered adversaries. He also lauded Bryant for his dedication to always being ready for a challenge and always working to better himself “every single day.”
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. And as I look across the room and arena, a piece of you died or else you wouldn’t be here,” Jordan said. “Those are the memories we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please, rest in peace, little brah.”
Watch his full speech above.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.