Michael Jordan honors Derek Jeter and his legacy in heartfelt letter

Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan (pictured at Jeter’s Yankee Stadium retirement ceremony) have developed a bond that has only grown since they first met in 1994. (AP)

The respect and adoration Derek Jeter earned during his career might be second to no other baseball player during this generation.

That has been evidenced by the endless supply of heartfelt tributes that have come in ahead of his jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. And it’s possible his biggest endorsement yet came early Saturday as basketball legend Michael Jordan honored Jeter’s legacy in a letter published to The Players’ Tribune.

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Derek,

A legacy is built by more than what is seen. It is not given, it is earned.

Beyond your 20 years in the Majors and an endless list of accolades, it was your love and respect for the game that set you apart.

Your pursuit of greatness on and off the field has set the standard for others to follow.

Much RE2PECT on cementing your legacy and having your No. 2 jersey retired.

Congratulations.

Your friend,

Michael

By the time Derek Jeter takes his rightful place in Monument Park on Sunday night, it’s possible he’ll have received similar tributes from every living legend in sports and even some from the entertainment and political worlds.

But there’s something pretty special about being recognized by “His Airness.”

Jordan is one of the very few whose sports career paralleled Jeter’s in terms of long-term excellence as a player, sustained success from a team standpoint, all while the spotlight shined brightest on him.

Their time in the spotlight only briefly overlapped, but Jeter has mentioned many times how Jordan took him under his wing as far back as 1994 when Jordan was trying his own hand at baseball.

“We first met when I was in Arizona Fall League, when he was playing baseball. MJ is like a brother to me; our relationship has grown throughout the years, and he’s like an older brother I never had,” Jeter told the YES Network in 2014. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about life and about competing, both on and off the field or court.”

Michael Jordan watches on while Derek Jeter speaks in a pregame ceremony honoring his career in 2014. (AP)

Jordan even appeared as a surprise guest at Jeter’s Yankee Stadium retirement ceremony in 2014.

It’s clear Derek Jeter has done his mentor and brother proud, and it’s cool to see their relationship has only grown as the years have gone by.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!