'Surreal,' 'chills' and 'haunting:' No one was ready for Kobe Bryant's appearance on 'The Last Dance'

Jack Baer
Writer

Just about everyone knew what Sunday’s episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” was going to feature, and yet very few were emotionally prepared for what came next.

Introduced via 1998 All-Star Game footage as “that little Laker boy,” seeing the face of Kobe Bryant was yet another unforgettable sequence from “The Last Dance.”

The episode began with a simple message, “In loving memory of Kobe Bryant.”

Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” began with Michael Jordan’s final All-Star appearance in a Bulls uniform. At the time, a 19-year-old Bryant was rising to NBA stardom and already drawing Jordan comparisons.

In an interview filmed before Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash earlier this year, Bryant explained how he felt about those comparisons and playing against Jordan.

That admiration went both ways, as Jordan would later cry while discussing his relationship with Bryant at the Lakers legend’s memorial service.

As you can imagine, seeing Bryant just talking basketball as images of his younger years flashed across the screen was overwhelming for NBA fans still getting used to a world without Bryant.

NBA reacts to Kobe Bryant’s appearance on ‘The Last Dance’

Once upon a time, Kobe Bryant was just "that little Laker boy." (VINCE BUCCI/AFP via Getty Images)

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