Kobe Bryant passed former teammate and frequent rival Shaquille O’Neal to move into fifth place on the National Basketball Association’s career scoring list.
Bryant, 33, reached the milestone in his hometown of Philadelphia, scoring 28 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 95-90 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant entered last night’s game 23 points shy of O’Neal’s career total of 28,596 and scored 24 of the Lakers’ first 40 points to pass him on the scoring list with 5:07 left in the first half.
“To say it’s an honor is an understatement,” Bryant told reporters after the game. “It’s a lot of basketball. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have such a good career.”
Bryant had four points in the second half, pushing his total to 28,601 points over 16 NBA seasons, all with the Lakers. He hit 8 of 14 shots in the first half, and missed 10 of 12 after halftime as the Lakers were outscored 49-40.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the league’s scoring leader with 38,387 points, followed by Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419).
O’Neal congratulated Bryant in a Twitter post, calling him the “greatest Laker ever” and thanking him for making them the franchise’s greatest one-two punch.
Bryant and O’Neal had a sometimes acrimonious yet successful stint as teammates, winning three straight NBA championships in Los Angeles from 2000-2002. Often bickering publicly about who should be the team’s offensive catalyst, O’Neal demanded a trade in 2004 after the Lakers said their offseason priority was to re-sign Bryant.
‘Bit More Significant’
O’Neal, who retired last June after 19 seasons, was sent to the Miami Heat, with whom he won a fourth title in 2006. Bryant eventually topped O’Neal by winning championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
“Because of our history, all the playoff battles we’ve been in and the duo we were able to form, it does make it a little bit more significant,” Bryant said of the milestone.
With the Lakers at 14-11 and in second place in the Pacific Division behind the Los Angeles Clippers, Bryant has taken on a bigger scoring role this season than in the recent past. He leads the NBA with a 29.4 point-per-game average, which would be his best output since winning the scoring title with a 31.6 average for the 2006-07 season. He also led the league the previous season at 35.4 points per game, and for his career he’s averaged 25.4 points per contest.
Bryant was sent to the Lakers in a draft-day trade after being selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets out of Lower Merion High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
A 13-time All-Star who was selected as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2007-08 season, Bryant entered this campaign with 27,868 points, averaging 1,858 per campaign. If he continues at that rate, he’d pass Abdul-Jabbar as a 38-year-old late in the 2016-17 season.
The NBA’s career scoring list does not include points from the now-defunct American Basketball Association. If ABA points were counted, Julius Erving (30,026) and Moses Malone (29,580) still would be ahead of Bryant, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, ranked 19th on the career list with 23,637 points, has the next highest total to Bryant among active NBA players.