ATLANTA -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant broke through the 32,000 career-point barrier against the Atlanta Hawks here Tuesday, joining an elite group that includes only three others: Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.
In his 19th season, the 36-year-old Bryant entered Tuesday leading the league in scoring at 27.3 points per game -- and he stood just 27 points shy of the mark.
The shooting guard was well on his way to reaching it after scoring 19 in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting from the field.
In front of a road crowd that cheered for him every time he touched the ball, Bryant finally broke through late in the fourth quarter on a fadeaway jumper. He was fouled on the shot and made the free throw, giving the Lakers a 108-102 lead.
"Well, it means a lot," Bryant said. "I can’t stress how much work it is just to be in this position, to be able to get out there and play. It’s a lot of work, man. And over 19 years, that’s really where I take enjoyment from it, is the process. It’s a lot of work over 19 years. It feels good to be able to have that accomplishment."
Bryant's next target for a record is Jordan, who entering Tuesday stood 319 points ahead of Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Asked if he has heard chatter that he's gunning for Jordan's spot on the list, Bryant said: "There’s always something. Especially with me. First it’s, I can’t come back and play. Now I’m playing and now it’s, well, I’m not playing well enough. Well, you just said that I’d be in a wheelchair and I wouldn’t be able to play at all. So there’s always something. I don’t even waste my time trying to shut people up."