I’m not sure how this is surprising to anyone.
In an article discussing how an extended lockout could impact Kobe Bryant’s assault on the record books, Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Times wrote about how Kobe really wants to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list even though Kobe denies it at every opportunity.
But not many believed him, including Phil Jackson. When I asked the former Lakers coach last season which player Bryant wants to pass on the scoring list the most, Jackson replied without hesitation, “Michael Jordan.” Bryant argued that wasn’t true and continued touting his sole motivation entails trying to minimize the gap between Bill Russell’s 11 NBA titles and his own five. Bryant isn’t lying when he says that’s his main motivation, but it’s misleading to act indifferent about it when teammates, media and the general public know he’s driven to be the best player ever.
For the record, Jordan is third on the all-time regular season scoring list with 32,292 points. Kobe is eighth on the list 4,424 behind him. At the rate Kobe has scored the last five seasons, it would take a little more than two seasons for Kobe to move past him. Even if Kobe’s scoring dips with age some, this is a reachable goal in three seasons.
Not sure any of this is new to anyone who has been a basketball fan the last decade. Whether he wanted to or not, Kobe will never be able to escape the comparisons to Jordan, or escape the shadow. Kobe welcomes that, for him it is just another goal, another mountain to climb.
What Kobe really shares with Jordan is competitive fire and work ethic. Both need to be the alpha male on a team — when rookie Kobe joined the Lakers he used to challenge all his veteran teammates to games of one-on-one to prove he could beat them. When Team USA went to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, other star teammates were amazed at how hard Kobe worked at his game and in the weight room.
But in Jordan Kobe is not just competing against the arguable GOAT, but a growing legend. Jordan has become almost unassailable in people’s minds. His stature as an icon and as still one of the most popular people in American sport remains. And that is impossible to top, even for Kobe.