MINNEAPOLIS—Kobe Bryant will probably never match Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships.
As the longtime Lakers’ storied NBA career winds to a close, Bryant did eclipse MJ in one all-important statistic, his 26-point performance against the Timberwolves moving him past MJ on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Bryant, 36, and in his 19th NBA season, entered Sunday’s game just eight points short of Jordan’s career total of 32,292 points, surpassing Jordan with a second quarter free-throw in Minneapolis’ Target Center.
The moment provided a silver lining to what has been an otherwise dismal season for the 8-17 Lakers. Bryant, who grew-up idolizing Jordan, has long been compared to the former Chicago Bull.
Besides prolific talent, both players share a unique, frenzied competitive drive, the type of character hard-wired to catalyze multiple championship runs. Controversy has followed both Jordan and Bryant, whose singular personalities caused both to rub elbows with both teammates and coaches alike.
Both share a history with legendary head coach Phil Jackson, who managed to handle the larger-than-life egos of both stars, who were the centerpieces of Jackson’s combined 11 championship seasons as a coach.
While Bryant is a superstar in his own right, he has spent much of his career chasing Jordan’s accomplishments, a fate that has already befallen stars that have come after Bryant, like LeBron James.
After Sunday night, Bryant will always be able to claim one piece of bragging rights over his childhood idol.
“I’m just honored to be here, man, to still be playing,” Bryant said. “I appreciate being able to play this long. Careers normally don’t last this long. I really appreciate the opportunity to still be out there playing and performing and doing what I do.”
“He knows how much I’ve learned from him (Jordan).”