CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Like many teams have done in arenas Kobe Bryant is visiting for the final time before retiring, the Charlotte Hornets aired a video tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers icon before Monday's game.
But the Hornets' tribute video was different. Instead of showing highlights from Bryant's 20-season career, the team showed a nearly 1-minute, 40-second video message from Michael Jordan, the Hornets' chairman and the player to whom Bryant has long been compared.
The video preceded the 37-year-old Bryant's final game in Charlotte, against the organization that drafted him 13th overall in 1996 before he was traded to the Lakers.
"Kobe, MJ. I'm sorry I couldn't be there tonight," Jordan began his message. "I just want to congratulate you on an unbelievable career. I think, when I look back, and the first time we actually played against each other, and the competitive drive that I saw within your eyes ... is very invigorating. And I'm very happy to leave you this message to say how much we are very proud of what you've accomplished over the years.
"Most people don't realize you were drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, so that connects us with you. I've always been like a big brother to you, [and you're] like a little brother. We communicate all the time. I just want to say congratulations. Your next step in your next career is going to be something that I'm pretty sure you're going to have to figure out. From a competitive standpoint, I'm pretty sure you're just like me. You're going to have to find other ways to utilize that competitive drive.
"But I want to congratulate you and Vanessa and the girls. You've been a big help to the game of basketball. You've helped the NBA. You've helped promote it. I'm pretty sure you've got a lot of fans all over the world. I am a big fan. I still love watching you play. I'm very, very happy for you and what you've accomplished within the game. And I look forward to seeing what you do next.
"If you ever need me, you know my number. Let's stay in touch. I wish you the best, and have a great game tonight -- not too good of a game. But I want you to stay healthy. As I said a couple weeks ago, this is your last year. Just have fun. Take it a day at a time. Enjoy it. And I look forward to seeing what you do after this. Take care. Good luck."
Bryant went on to score 20 points on 5-of-20 shooting (3-of-12 from 3-point range) in Los Angeles' 108-98 loss. Bryant made just one of 10 shots in the second half, a 3-pointer with 1:02 left. He left the game a few seconds later to chants of "Kobe! Kobe!"
Bryant said he spoke with Jordan on Sunday and knew the video would be shown.
"It was awesome. It was awesome," Bryant said. "He and I -- as he said in the video -- we talk pretty often. But it was pretty funny to see some of the reactions of my teammates. I was sitting next to Julius Randle before the game. He was like, 'Yo, that's amazing!' I was like, 'What?' [He said] 'That was Michael Jordan!'"
Bryant added, "We talk fairly often. I know he's enjoying a little vacation time. I told him I was a little jealous. He said, 'You'll be here soon enough.'"
While Jordan transitioned into an ownership role for an NBA team, Bryant said he doesn't expect to follow the same path.
"No, he and I differ entirely when it comes to that," Bryant said. "He's a mathematician. He loves math. He loves numbers, loves dealing with numbers. I don't. I could care less. I suck at math. So from that perspective, I'm not going to be looking at cap numbers and all that other stuff. I just have no interest in it."
Bryant again was warmly received by a road crowd that chanted his name at numerous points throughout the game, including when the buzzer sounded.
"It's been like that every city, fortunately," he said. "Here it's a little bit different because this is the city that drafted me, so my journey started here. As brief as it was, it still started here. That has a little more value to it."
But perhaps no stop means as much -- or carries as much personal history for Bryant and his team -- as the stop Wednesday, when Bryant will play his final game in Boston against the archrival Celtics, a team Bryant faced twice in the Finals. The Lakers lost in 2008, then won in 2010.
"Love-hate fest sort of thing," he said of what he is expecting from the crowd. "I'm bringing my family down because my kids have never even been to Boston. They've never even been to Boston. I'm looking forward to them getting a chance to see the city a little bit and then just experience the green. It's just a different green. I want them to be able to see that."
Bryant also said he misses playing the villain, which meant being booed at road arenas.
"Yeah. It was just so natural to me for so many years," he said. "It became something that just felt comfortable. It felt a little awkward at first, to be honest with you, to get this praise, but I'm glad they didn't do this many, many years ago because it's like kryptonite. It would've taken away all my energy and all my strength because I relied a lot on being the villain. Sometimes, the best way to beat the villain is to give them a hug."
So would he like more boos, especially considering the Celtics are up next?
"Nah, if [the 5-27 Lakers were] a championship-caliber team, honestly, I would probably come out and say something extremely controversial just to piss everybody off so everybody hates me for one more year," Bryant said with a laugh. "But I don't need to do that."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.