Michael Jordan says he didn't see Kobe Bryant as his rival for the mythical honor of being recognized as the best basketball player ever.
Instead, he came to love Bryant as the little brother he never had, and as a student eager to learn from Jordan's experiences and skills.
Jordan broke into tears with those words during a moving speech about his largely unpublicized friendship with Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.
Jordan teared up several times during his speech, which allowed him to bring a moment of levity to the somber proceedings.
He is well aware of the Crying Jordan meme in which an Associated Press photo of his tear-stained face from his 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is superimposed on athletes and public figures at moments of loss or disappointment.
''Now he's got me. I'm going to have to look at another crying meme for the next ...'' Jordan said while the arena dissolved into laughter.