Just 31 more points.
After scoring 32,292 points in his career, Kobe Bryant just needs 31 more to pass Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list. He could do that Friday night in San Antonio (although if Kawhi Leonard is cleared to play as expected it will be tough). If not then Kobe will almost certainly pass MJ Sunday in Minnesota.
Kobe tried to downplay it, as he often does when it comes to comparisons with him and Jordan — even though Kobe has clearly patterned a lot of his game, and how he works off the court as a professional and leader, off Jordan. Of course, Kobe said what mattered was the rings, not the accolades.
But becoming No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list has to rank high on Kobe’s long list of personal accomplishments.
It speaks to a long career played at a very high level, a carer where virtually every team he was on leaned on him (even this year at age 36 coming off a couple serious surgeries). It speaks to a lot of time in the gym, time in the weight room, time in the training room to get your body through 19 NBA seasons and still be playing at an elite level. It speaks to a ridiculous level of dedication to the game, to his craft.
It doesn’t say he’s better than Michael. He’s not. Phil Jackson said Kobe trained harder than MJ, maybe so, but he’s not better.
However, it’s also not an easy comparison, something Kobe told Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“I’ve had to be a point guard and shooting guard,” Bryant said. “I was always very jealous of him having Scottie Pippen. It’s much more frustrating for a natural scorer to wear both hats. In our games and our development, I’ve had to play more of point guard role, particularly in those first three championships with Shaq, which is not a natural thing for me.”
We as fans always want to compare and rank — was Shaq better than Kareem, or Wilt, or Bill Russell? It’s arbitrary and ultimately moot, but it’s part of the fun of talking and enjoying sports (and it’s just human nature to rank things).
But sometimes we need to put that aside and just savor the great things we do get to witness. Kobe is one of the games all-time great players, a guy with impeccable footwork, a great basketball IQ, a gift for getting to his spots on the floor, and a guy who worked as hard as anyone ever has in the game to polish his craft. He shoots a lot, but he’s still someone you have to watch, even now.
As Kobe passes MJ we should just celebrate that and what Kobe Bryant has given us over the years. We’re going to miss him when he’s gone.