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Kobe, Magic Pay Tribute to Michael Jackson

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↵Put aside the obvious Staples Center corporate connection, and you couldn't pick two more appropriate athletes to speak at Michael Jackson's public memorial than Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. Kobe was a friend of Jackson's, and has already spoken extensively about how misunderstood Jackson was. Without making Kobe out to be a total weirdo, there are parallels there: success and pressure at very young ages, near-obsessive approaches to their crafts, desire to assimilate all that came before and be the best ever, and yes, high-profile legal troubles that made them into highly controversial figures. ↵
↵Kobe rehabilitated himself with two seasons of unselfishness, some flashes of real personality, an MVP, and now a title. Jackson had to die to come anywhere close to clearing his name. ↵
↵With Magic, who spoke second, the connection's not nearly as heavy. Magic and the Showtime Lakers epitomized 1980's ball at its most dynamic and infectious, just like Jackson when he was on top of the world. Johnson's said before that Michael was the musician who most influenced his play on the court; today, he took it a step further, claiming that Jackson made him a better point guard by setting such a high bar for showmanship and entertainment. But the most memorable moment had to be when Magic, who used to light off firecrackers with the lesser Jacksons, went to eat dinner with The King. The personal chef came around, Magic ordered the grilled chicken, and Michael ... well, watch the video. Magic Johnson may have done more than anyone else in America to make us believe that Jackson was a human being.
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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.