Magic Johnson Reflecting on Kobe Bryant's Legacy Will Warm Your Heart

Magic Johnson shared his happy memories of the late Kobe Bryant during Tuesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live. See why the athlete considers Bryant to be the greatest Laker of all time below.

By kelli boyle Jan 29, 2020 2:14 PMTags
Magic Johnson, Kobe BryantM. Phillips/WireImage

Magic Johnson is honoring his friendship with Kobe Bryant the best way he knows how.

Rather than canceling his previously scheduled appearance on Tuesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live in light of Bryant's tragic death, the basketball legend appeared on the show because, as he explained it, "Kobe wouldn't have want me to cancel."

"Kobe would want us all to carry on and be great in our lives," Johnson told host Jimmy Kimmel. "And we should do something positive, whether it's making sure that we love our family or giving back to an organization in his name. We should do something great, because he was such a great man, great husband, great father, incredible basketball player."

The 60-year-old Lakers alum continued to gush over Bryant. As he said, "For 20 years, to wear the Laker purple and gold. And love playing the game, and then to see him just become a great father and husband, and he was enjoying life and went way too early."

As Kimmel noted of the two basketball stars (who both played for the Lakers, but never at the same time), "You were his idol. That's something."

As Johnson responded, "We idolized each other." Kimmel, a big fan of the sport himself, found this intriguing.

"I think that's very interesting, because you both called each other the greatest Laker of all time," he said. "And it didn't seem like either one of you was just being nice about it. It seemed like you both meant it. And I could understand you being his idol, him calling you the greatest Laker of all time. And to be honest, I think of you as the greatest Laker of all time. It's so unusual to me that you would give that title to him."

As the Hall of Famer explained, "Well, because we both poured our heart and soul into performing every night in Los Angeles for the greatest fans on Earth. We both were committed to basketball, we were married to basketball. We were married to winning and playing the game the right way."

"And then, every night that you came to the Forum—'cause that's where he first started, and then he was actually able to build Staples Center," he continued. "And every night you came to Staples Center, you knew you were gonna see something special, something great that you've never seen in your life and that was Kobe Bryant."

The owner of the L.A. Dodgers then went on to compliment Bryant's famous work ethic.

"He made no excuses," Johnson declared. "That's why we all should never make excuses, because Kobe never made an excuse, whether he was tired, hurt. He played through everything. And the man gave us everything that he had."

Later in the interview, Johnson reminisced with Kimmel about the one time he ever played a game with Bryant. It was, as Johnson explained (as well as Bryant in a 2018 interview on the show), during Bryant's prime on the Lakers, long after Johnson had retired.

In a clip of Bryant's 2018 interview, he joked that Johnson was cheating during their one-on-one game (which they played during a Lakers practice). When Kimmel asked if Bryant's story was true, Johnson laughed and said, "Of course!"

"I was older," he hilariously continued. "He was in his prime killing me! So, I was like, 'I gotta cheat. I gotta do something.'"