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Jordan says piece of him died with Kobe Bryant

Vanessa Bryant is helped off the stage by former NBA player Michael Jordan after speaking during a celebration of life for her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) —  NBA legend Michael Jordan said at a public memorial that “when Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died.”

He said Monday at the Staples Center that a piece of everyone in the crowd died as well. He urged people to use the inspiration of Bryant’s life for their own.

Jordan said once when he made a visit to the Lakers locker room, Kobe asked him, “Did you bring your shoes?” Jordan said it was just a social call, but Bryant was ready for one-on-one.

He said to “rest in peace, little brother,” getting a standing ovation as he left the stage.

Mourners packed the Staples Center to remember Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the others who died last month in a helicopter crash.

Tears streaming down his face, NBA legend Michael Jordan said at a public memorial that he thought of Kobe Bryant as a little brother.

Jordan joked Monday that like little brothers, the younger Bryant peppered him with questions about what to expect as his career with the Los Angeles Lakers started taking off. Jordan got laughs from the crowd at the Staples Center.

The former Chicago Bulls superstar said he received calls from Bryant at all hours, eager to talk about the game, business and family.

Jordan said Bryant was eager to become the best basketball player, and it made him want to be the best big brother he could be.

He says Bryant had “passion like you would never know.”

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said Kobe’s last texts to him came shortly before a helicopter crash killed the NBA superstar and eight others.

Pelinka said Monday at a public memorial that Bryant wanted his help to secure an internship for a daughter of his friend John Altobelli, who also died in the crash.

He called Bryant’s last act “heroic.” Pelinka says Bryant wanted to “use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future.”

Pelinka said the NBA legend’s famous “Mamba mentality” extended to his roles as friend, father and husband.

Pelinka described how Bryant accomplished whatever he set his mind to, including learning to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on piano. Then he introduced Alicia Keys, who performed a version of the sonata.

Mourners packed the Staples Center to remember Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the others who died last month.

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach says he came to the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna as a father, not as a basketball coach.

Geno Auriemma described to the Staples Center audience Monday the excitement that 13-year-old Gianna showed while visiting UConn, where she had hoped to one day play basketball.

Bryant and Gianna were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month while they headed to a basketball tournament that the teen was going to play in.

The memorial event began with a performance by Beyonce. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, brought tears to people’s eyes as she spoke, giving an intimate portrait of her husband and daughter.