The “best Laker that’s ever played?”
Maybe Magic Johnson was being facetious. Maybe not. What’s certain is that Kobe Bryant joined an extremely exclusive NBA club of players who have scored 30,000 points Wednesday night. The Los Angeles Lakers guard who, unimaginably, has spent half his life playing in the league, became the youngest to reach 30,000 at the age of 34 years and 104 days.
Bryant’s historic moment came just before halftime. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain with a one-handed floater in the lane over Robin Lopez. There were a few cheers, but the game wasn’t stopped. Before the second half started, the milestone was acknowledged and Bryant hugged his teammates and waved to the crowd.
“Honestly, I don’t why I’m still working as hard as I am after 17 years [in the league],” said Bryant, who has won five championships and now has 30,016 points. “It’s just, I enjoy what I do. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of is every year and every day working hard at it. It’s a lot of years, a lot of work.”
Bryant was unusually talkative after the 103-87 victory moved the Lakers to 9-10 ahead of Friday’s big game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. He talked about Jordan, his idol, and admitted that they were similar in off-the-court demeanor, too. Bryant wasn’t waiting for a welcome-to-the-club call.
“Knowing him the way I know him, probably not,” Bryant said. “I probably wouldn’t call [him] either.”
One-quarter of Bryant’s 30,000+ points have come on free throws, 1,540 of his points have come on three-pointers. Where does he go from here? He leads the league with a 27.9-point average, which means he should pass Chamberlain (31,419) this season. Over the summer, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said he ran into Bryant at a golf course and asked if were going to play a round. “Nah,” Wilbon said he joked. “Gotta catch Michael.” After Chamberlain, the next target is Jordan’s 32,292…and Jordan’s six championships, of course, are always the great white whale.
”Scorers kind of have a fighter-pilot mentality. We’re a different breed,” Bryant said. ”But there are different positions. We scored in a myriad of ways. We all went about it differently in different situations. It’s fun to see.”
“Best Laker ever”? Sounds like he’s aiming even higher than that. He is rather competitive.