Prior to inducting him into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Michael Jordan recalled to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan his last text message exchange with the late Kobe Bryant.

The exchange took place on Dec. 8, 2019, just 49 days before Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash. First, Kobe complimented Jordan on his Cincoro Tequila. They then talked about their families before Jordan asked about Bryant’s new passion for coaching.

Here’s the portion of the interview via ESPN:

“This tequila is awesome,” Kobe texted, referring to Jordan’s Cincoro Tequila, a bottle of which was sent to Bryant at the launch.

“Thank you, my brother,” Jordan responded.

“Yes, sir. Family good?” Kobe replied.

“All good. Yours?”

“All good.”

Jordan smiled, then decided to have a little fun. “He was really into coaching Gigi,” MJ explains, “so I hit him up about that.”

“Happy holidays,” Jordan texted back, “and hope to catch up soon. Coach Kobe??!”

“I added that little crying/laughing emoji,” Jordan chuckles.

“Ah, back at you, man,” Kobe wrote. “Hey, coach, I’m sitting on the bench right now, and we’re blowing this team out. 45-8.”

The task of taking the mantle from Michael Jordan was placed squarely on Kobe’s shoulders as soon as he came into the NBA as a fresh-faced 17-year-old. Although they were fierce competitors, Jordan embraced Kobe as his “little brother” and they forged a relationship that helped Bryant blossom out of MJ’s shadows. 

“In some ways, Kobe was self-made,” Jordan said to MacMullan. “People forget that. He was an 18-year-old kid that made himself into one of the best.”

Now, due to Kobe’s passing, it’s Jordan’s time to be his brother’s keeper. This weekend, Kobe will be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside his friends and competitors, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Since Bryant can’t be there in person, Jordan will take his brother’s place per the request of Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant. 

“Jordan says about six months ago he sent Vanessa a text to check in on her. 

‘I told her, ‘Look, I know this is a tough time. I’m always here if you need me,’’ Jordan says. ‘She answered back, ‘I would love it if you stood up for Kobe at the Hall of Fame.’

‘It’s going to be a great honor, to be honest. It’s like standing up for a family member. He paid me the highest respect by trying to emulate certain things I did. And I can only repay that by showing my support and admiration for a guy who I felt was one of the greatest to ever play the game.’”

Jordan isn’t the only loved one who holds on to Kobe through text. While MJ viewed Bryant as a little sibling, his former Lakers teammate, Lamar Odom, thought of the Mamba as a father figure. During an interview with Vlad TV, Odom admitted to texting Kobe weeks after he died. 

“It took me some time to even really accept it,” Odom said. “I would call his phone for weeks after it happened. Just text him. He was a special dude to me beyond basketball. …. It’s hard for me to someone I love so much kind of go like that.”