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Michael Jordan retires Crying Jordan meme in touching Kobe Bryant tribute

A teary MJ sweetly references the meme, and may have silenced it forever.

Michael Jordan spoke at the Los Angeles memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant on Monday, and in doing so, possibly gently retired the Crying Jordan meme that has been popular on the internet for years.  Retired Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. 

Jordan took the stage at the live-streamed memorial event right after Alicia Keys performed Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata -- a song Bryant taught himself to play on the piano for his wife, Vanessa -- and tearily immediately referenced the meme.

"Now he's got me," Jordan said. "I'll have to look at another crying meme for the next … I told my wife I wasn't going to (cry), because I didn't want to see that for the next three to four years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me!" 

Crying Jordan is the popular name given to a much-shared photo of the NBA legend crying at his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2011. The photo has since been reused, captioned and altered thousands of times, turning into a meme that's hard to escape on Twitter.

After Jordan's heartfelt acknowledgement of the meme, many social-media users felt that use of the image should end.

"No more Crying Jordan memes," wrote sports anchor Carson Cunningham. "They are over with. MJ is giving a tremendous, heartfelt eulogy to Kobe & Gianna."

Wrote another, "I watched Vanessa Bryant's memorial speech about GiGi and I was holding it together until I saw Jordan. Crying Jordan meme is cancelled."

The audience laughed along with Jordan's mention of the meme, and many fans appreciated the gentle joke on a serious day. "Michael Jordan talking about another Crying Jordan meme got me laugh crying," wrote Philip DeFranco.

Some referred to Jordan's tear-stained face as the "new Crying Jordan," but many Twitter users expressed that the concept had become too real to use again.

"Always remember that when you look past accomplishments & titles, we are all human beings capable of pain and humility," wrote one Twitter user. "All jokes aside though, I don't wanna see any Crying Jordan memes from this event."

The memorial ran for more than two hours at the Staples Center, home of Bryant's LA Lakers. Singer Beyoncé began the memorial by performing XO and Halo. Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel also spoke, as did NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. Vanessa Bryant also gave a touching eulogy for her husband and teen daughter.