What Michael Jordan told Kobe Bryant during final matchup that got everyone laughing

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3 min read

Watching “The Last Dance” in the early days of quarantine feels like ages ago in this odd 2020 year. Yet with so many involved even tangentially in the path of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, there are always more stories to tell from it.

Actor John Cusack had his own tale to share last week while on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The Chicago native grew up when Jordan started his NBA career and decades later calls him an acquaintance, maybe even friend.

He said he remembers “every game I think Michael played” and could recall vividly a fun moment between Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Cusack on laughing Jordan, Bryant in final game

Kimmel, who brought up “The Last Dance” and his fandom, asked Cusack about a photo from March 28, 2003, in which he was courtside (with a Big Gulp in hand) at the Los Angeles Lakers’ Staples Center. The meeting with Jordan’s Washington Wizards was the final of eight times the two matched up against each other.

Cusack and every other fan in the photo are laughing along with Jordan, who was down on the court, and Bryant, standing above him. The telling starts at the 4:36 mark.

“At some point in the game, everybody knew Michael and Kobe were going to go one-on-one,” Cusack said on Kimmel. “So Kobe got the ball, cleared everybody out and everybody started to bristle up with anticipation; it was going to be Kobe against Michael. And Kobe started to drive, Michael stepped in front, right in front of me, and he took the charge.

“He went down and Kobe’s standing above him and Michael just looked up and he said, ‘Well, everybody in the (explicit) building knew you weren’t going to pass.’ And then there was a pause. And it was like, the old pro got him, the old vet got him. And Kobe just started laughing. They both started laughing.

“You really saw the passing of the torch, from one to the other.”

The explanation over the full video with music is heart warming and heart breaking at the same time.

Bryant’s 55-point game, admiration for Jordan

Michael Jordan, left, in a blue Wizards jersey has his head pushed away in jest by Kobe Bryant.
Michael Jordan got Kobe Bryant with an 'old pro' move in their final meeting, John Cusack shared on Kimmel. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson LN/SV)

Bryant, then 24 and in his seventh NBA season, scored 55 points in the 108-94 Lakers’ victory with 42 of them in the first half. It’s the ninth-highest scoring total of Bryant’s career. He wore a variety of different Air Jordans that season while in between shoe contracts. For Jordan’s final game in L.A. he wore the rare Air Jordan 8 PE.

Jordan, who turned 40 the month prior to that game, retired for good after the 2002-03 season. The two legends met eight times on the court, with Bryant winning five of them. Four were against the Wizards, where Jordan played for two years after three years of retirement.

They held similar admiration for each other over the years. Bryant said he wouldn’t have won five NBA championships without Jordan in an interview that aired on “The Last Dance.” It was taped before his death in a helicopter crash in January. At the celebration of life in February, Jordan cried almost immediately while talking about Bryant and called him “like a little brother.”

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