Rip Hamilton (Exclusive) on Kobe, Jordan, NBA All-Star Weekend

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Detroit Pistons legend and former Chicago Bull Rip Hamilton is back in town for NBA All-Star weekend, and we caught up with him Thursday night at the Rookie USA fashion show. The event benefits the James R. Jordan foundation, managed by Michael Jordan’s mother, and named for his late father.

Hamilton is close to Jordan and he talks to him all the time, so coming out and supporting the cause was a natural course of action and easy decision for him.

Richard Hamilton

AP Photo/Jim Prisching

“I still look at him as one of those guys who’s been my idol my entire life,” Rip said of MJ during our red carpet exclusive. With the NBA All-Star Game being back here for the first time since 1988, imagery evoking that event’s signature moment, the dunk contest is everywhere.

“You always remember the Michael Jordan and the Dominique Wilkins dunk contest,” Rip Hamilton said when I asked him what his favorite event at NBA All-Star weekend is.

The three time NBA All-Star, who saw his #32 retired by the Detroit Pistons (he also spent two seasons with the Bulls and three with Washington) likes the new all star format:

“any time you got the best players to come here together on one team, and an opportunity to pick their teammates, and it’s on tv it’s always exciting.”

The number one story in the NBA, all season long, is of course the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant to a helicopter crash on January 15. Kobe has of course been honored at numerous events this week/weekend, and his memory will obviously be paid tribute at the game tomorrow.

Even the scoring of the game will include an homage to the Lakers legend, as a tweak has been included that references his jersey number.

Rip Hamilton said he was on the way from his son’s basketball game when he heard the shocking, tragic news.

“I took it hard, Kobe’s always been a good friend of mine since I was 15,” he said.

“It me hard, it hit my family hard. It’s one of those things that ever since it struck it still seems surreal..it was just a sad day.”

We asked him how he felt about all the tributes that have been paid to Bryant, from all over the world, from all corners of life.

“That just shows you what kind of respect he has not just as a basketball player but as an individual and how much love he had among the world,” he responded.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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