Kobe Bryant didn't want to do a retirement tour, but the rest of the league isn't giving him a choice. Away crowds are rooting him on, arenas are recognizing him during breaks in the action, and now MJ himself is bidding the Black Mamba farewell.
In a rare gesture, Michael Jordan appeared on the big screen during Monday night's Charlotte Hornets-Los Angeles Lakers game, delivering a touching message to Bryant.
"I'm a big fan," Jordan says. "I still love watching you play."
Jordan also refers to Bryant as a little brother -- fitting, given that Bryant is the closest thing the NBA has to Jordan ever since MJ retired. Both play with a tenacious, competitive spirit and dominated as two-way guards, hoarding championship trophies during their respective generations.
Jordan was not in attendance for the game, but his message resonated with a warm Hornets fan base:
"We are very proud of what you have accomplished over the years," Jordan says. "Have a great game. But not too good."
Kobe abided -- he scored 20 points in the affair, but the Lakers lost, 108-98.