EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There are several goals Kobe Bryant has before he retires but his place on the NBA’s all-time scoring isn’t one of them.
Bryant sits just 30 points away from Michael Jordan and third place on the league’s scoring list but he said the fact that he could pass Jordan as early as Friday night in San Antonio hasn’t crossed his mind.
“Zero,” Bryant said when asked how much he’s thought about passing Jordan. “It’s a huge honor to be here in this position. I can’t believe I’ve scored that many points, especially from where my career has started and not playing and things like that. It’s a huge honor but it’s not something I thought about growing up as a kid -- it was championships. That’s why the level of excitement in winning championships is so much higher because that’s the goal that’s set. The [individual] numbers and stuff are nothing I ever set out to accomplish.”
Bryant enters Friday’s game having scored 32,262 points during his 19-year career while Jordan scored 32,292 points during his 15-year career. Bryant, however, entered the NBA as an 18-year-old rookie out of high school and only started seven games through his first two seasons.
While Bryant has been hesitant in the past to indulge in comparisons to Jordan, he admitted on the eve of Friday’s game that they both share a similar drive to succeed.
“I think we’re both cursed with the obsession of trying to be the best that we can,” Bryant said. “It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. We’re both very similar in that regard.”
The biggest difference, however, between the two in Bryant’s eyes is that Bryant had to handle the ball more during his career than Jordan did with Bryant playing off Shaquille O’Neal during his first three titles and Pau Gasol during his last two as opposed to having a “point forward” like Scottie Pippen.
“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.”
Bryant said he has always been driven more by Jordan's and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s six championships rather than their total career points but when he looks at the Hall of Famers he is surrounded by on the all-time scoring list, the elite group he's in isn’t lost on him.
“It wasn’t a goal that I set out to accomplish,” Bryant said of passing Jordan for total points. “Being in that company with Michael and Kareem and the other great scorers, that’s the most fun part. Being a part of that group; being a part of a group that I grew up idolizing and learning from and aspiring to be one day. That’s the true honor.”
When Bryant does pass Jordan on the scoring list, the top three players on the list (Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Bryant) will have all played for the Lakers at one point in their careers with Abdul-Jabbar and Bryant, of course, are more synonymous with the team than Malone’s one season in Los Angeles.
“Now that’s awesome,” Bryant said. “Being a Lakers fan growing up, that’s amazing to be a part of this storied franchise. That’s probably the coolest thing for me. How many players get a chance to say that they spent their entire career playing for the team that was their favorite team growing up? That’s great.”
Five of the top six scorers in NBA history have played for the Lakers with Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal being fifth and sixth on the list.
“It’s huge when you look at the top ten scorers in the history of the game” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “It’s an unbelievable feat. It shows his longevity and his greatness for so many years.”
While Bryant tried to downplay the significance of passing Jordan on the all-time scoring list, Lakers guard Nick Young said it's a big deal historically and to Bryant regardless of what he says publicly.
“I know it’s big for him,” Young said. “He can say what he wants but I know he looks at it and to beat someone you look up to is a great feeling.”