Michael Jordan has tearfully paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant at a memorial service in Los Angeles.

Friends, family, and athletes filled the Staples Centre, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26.

Jordan was among many who spoke at the memorial. He opened up about his friendship with Bryant, sharing that they were closer friends than people knew.

“Kobe was my dear friend, he was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe,” Jordan said.

“What Kobe Byrant was to me was an inspiration that someone truly cared about either the way I played the game or how he wanted to play the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be,” he said.

Jordan said he took “great pride” in getting to know Bryant. They would talk about everything from family to business to basketball.

“He was just trying to be a better person,” he said.

“Now he’s got me – I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next -” the crowd erupted in cheers. Jordan is of course referencing that viral meme of him with tears streaming down his face.

“I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this ‘cos I did’t want to see that for the next three or four years,” Jordan continued. “That is what Kobe Bryant does to me.”

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, also celebrated the lives of her husband and daughter. She thanked everyone for attending the memorial, saying the “outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting.”

She remembered Gigi as an “amazingly sweet and gentle soul” who was “always thoughtful.”

“She was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mamma. She was one of my vest best friends,” she said.

And for Kobe, Vanessa said he was “the most amazing husband.”

“Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words,” she said.

“We loved each other with our whole beings, two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family and raising our sweet and amazing girls.”