Bryant was able to one-up O’Neal again Monday as he passed his former teammate for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in the second quarter of the Lakers’ game against thePhiladelphia 76ers.
Bryant hit a long jump shot from the top of the key with 5:07 remaining in the first half to push him past O’Neal. Bryant’s bucket was originally ruled a 3-pointer before being changed to a 2 after the shot was reviewed.
O’Neal retired this past offseason after scoring 28,596 points in a 19-year career with Orlando, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston and the Lakers. Bryant, a 16-year veteran, now trails only Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points), Michael Jordan (32,292 points), Karl Malone (36,928 points) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points).
Bryant and O’Neal won three championships together and reached the Finals four times in the nine seasons they spent as Lakers teammates (1996-2004).
Bryant, 33, leads the league in scoring with a 29.4 points per game average and already has two scoring titles under his belt. His 25.4 points per game career average also eclipses O’Neal’s career mark of 23.7 points per game.
Next up for Bryant is Chamberlain, a fellow Philadelphia native.
Bryant and Chamberlain have already been linked through their penchant for points in the past, as Bryant broke Chamberlain’s Pennsylvania high school scoring record by finishing with 2,883 points to Chamberlain’s 2,252. Bryant’s 81-point game on Jan. 22, 2006 also happens to be the second-highest single scoring game in league history, trailing only Chamberlain’s 100 scored on March 2, 1962.
“It’s a lot of points. It’s a lot of points,” Bryant said, looking back on Chamberlain’s feat as the 50th anniversary of The Big Dipper’s historic game approaches next month. “I think it was just one of those nights for both of us where there was really no explanation for it. You just kind of get into one of those zones and one of those moments and things happen. … I was doing mine on jump shots, though. I didn’t have to bang with too many guys down low. I was just catching and shooting.”
While it took more than 40 years for another player to score 80 points or more after Chamberlain scored 100, Bryant said his and Chamberlain’s scoring totals are achievable.
“I believe so,” Bryant said when asked if any player would ever join him and Chamberlain with a matching single-game scoring outburst. “One day it will happen.”
Lakers coach Mike Brown thinks Bryant could land at the top by the time he calls it a career.
“It might be tough for him to pass Kareem, but he should get close,” Brown said after the Lakers’ shootaround Monday. “He should catch Malone.”
By Dave McMenamin / ESPNLosAngeles.com