When Michael Jordan Battled Kobe Bryant at the 1998 NBA All-Star Game

The 1998 NBA All-Star Game was special many reasons. Madison Square Garden, the most iconic arena in sports hosted the best NBA players in an All-Star Game that turned out to be legendary. That February 8, 1998 game was Michael Jordan’s last All-Star appearance with the Chicago Bulls. It was also Kobe Bryant’s first NBA All-Star Game.

The then-19-year-old Bryant became the youngest starter in NBA All-Star Game history, and he clashed with Jordan, his mentor.

It was evident that the 1997-98 season was Jordan’s last with the Bulls, who were after another three-peat while feuding with general manager Jerry Krause because he wanted to end the dynasty he helped build.

Jordan almost missed that All-Star game because of a flu. He felt the symptoms on Thursday, leaving him under three days to recover. The Bulls legend was supposed to play golf in Las Vegas, but he stayed in Chicago and arrived in New York on Saturday morning, as he kept battling his fever with antibiotics.

“If (it were Saturday) I would not have played,” Jordan explained back then. “I had a hard time sitting up. I got up and moved around a little bit this morning.”

Anyone would have expected Jordan to take the night off, but he wasn’t anyone. Jordan was a competitive animal unlike anyone else, and he wanted to play against the kid in LA who was making a name for himself getting comparisons to him.

Those days Bryant began showing glimpses of the player he would become later. Kobe averaged 7.6 points in 15.5 minutes over 71 games as a rookie in 1996-97, but he put up 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.7 minutes in 42 games off the bench before the 1998 All-Star Game.

The electricity Kobe brought with him whenever he stepped on the court made him a fan favorite and earned him a spot in the Western Conference starting lineup.

Kobe made spectacular dunks and incredible plays while challenging Jordan, who wanted to give him a lesson. Unfortunately, Western Conference head coach George Karl decided to sit the starters in the fourth quarter, but Kobe pushed Jordan to the limit when both were on the court.

“He hit those two turnarounds and I was like, ‘Cool, let’s get it on,’” Bryant said.

“It was fun,” Jordan said. “I was trying to fend him off as much as I could. He came at me pretty early. If I see someone that’s maybe sick or whatever you’ve got to attack him. I like his attitude.”

The Eastern Conference won the game 135-114. Jordan led both teams with 32 minutes and by making 10 field goals. He named the MVP of the game. He also had a game-high 23 points to go along with eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Kobe led the Western Conference with 18 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes over three quarters.

Eduardo Solano