Kobe Bryant is just 127 points back of Michael Jordan on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list, meaning Kobe will move past the legend some time in the next couple weeks.
No player has been compared to Jordan more than Kobe (the comments on this post will devolve into that tired debate again) — something Kobe has encouraged. And no player has withstood the comparison to arguably the game’s greatest player as well. As fans we get drawn into these debates rather than just enjoying greatness as it comes in its varied forms through the league. We can admire both without diminishing the other. Kobe and Jordan are different players of different (if slightly overlapping) eras.
And they are friends. Bryant opened up to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report about his relationship with Jordan in a must-read article.
“We hit it off very well. He was really like a big brother, and whether it’s because we see things in a similar way in terms of our competitive spirit or fire or whatever the case may be, there’s an understanding that we have—a connection that we have.
“I don’t know if he opened up with me more than he did with other players, I’m not sure. I don’t know if other players had the balls even to ask. But we have a really, really good relationship.”
Kobe’s critics will say he learned all his moves from Jordan — even Jordan has joked about that — but Bryant says that’s not true.
“The thing that I always bristled at was the notion that I learned everything that I know from Michael. That’s just not true. Hakeem Olajuwon deserves a lot of credit; Jerry West deserves a lot of credit. Oscar Robertson deserves a lot of credit. I really was a student of the game and watched everybody.
“I’ve always welcomed the comparison to Michael if it’s in competitive spirit or in terms of records that I may set. I’ve always been cool with that. To be in that kind of company is…is…is…crazy, for lack of a better term. Rare air.”
Bryant is clearly thinking a lot about his legacy at this point, he knows this is the final chapter of his career. Fair or not part of that will be how he stacks up against Jordan, and the fact he is passing the legend on the all time scoring list — yes, in more years and games, but passing him nonetheless — means a lot to Kobe.