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Kobe Bryant has turned himself into one of the best basketball players of all time over the course of the last 20 years, but he’s definitely had some help along the way. ESPN reporter Jackie MacMullan just put together an excellent piece about the people who have provided inspiration and information for Kobe during his NBA career, and it’s a looooooong list. Here are just a few of the folks on it:

  • Michael Jackson
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Magic Johnson
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Larry Bird

And then, of course, there’s Michael Jordan. According to MacMullan’s piece, MJ told Kobe, “If you ever need anything, give me a call,” after a game in December 1997, and Kobe took him up on that offer early and often. Kobe asked MJ about everything from guarding taller players in the post to figuring out the best release point on a fadeaway shot. But MacMullan points out that Kobe also turned to MJ for advice on dealing with his teammates.

Specifically, Kobe called MJ following an incident with a teammate during the 2004-05 NBA season. In the middle of a practice, Kobe elbowed fellow Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic and made him cry. After the practice ended, Kobe called MJ and asked if he thought he had gone too far. And while it's unclear what MJ told him back then, MJ spoke with MacMullan and talked about the tone of the conversation.

“Sometimes you have to be an asshole,” Jordan said. “Sometimes your teammates are going to hate you, but all the guys I went after—Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler—they won multiple championships, so I’m pretty sure they understand.”

Try telling that to Sasha Vujacic! No, but seriously, MacMullan’s story will give you a great glimpse into Kobe’s relationship with MJ as well as other NBA greats. She got amazing access to some of the biggest names connected to Kobe. Go check it out here.

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[via ESPN]