With his 13th point Wednesday against the Hornets in New Orleans, Bryant became only the fifth player in NBA history to join the 30,000-point club.
Bryant, 34, is the youngest to enter a stratosphere that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
In an exclusive interview with FOX Sports West before the achievement, his eyes got wide when discussing the company he was about to join.
“I’m beyond proud,” Bryant said. “I’m happy and it’s a huge honor, to say the least. Whenever you hear those names and you think about the amount of players who have played this game, to be in that kind of company is always extremely, extremely special.
“Man, that’s a lot of points.”
It sure is.
Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leader with 38,387, followed by Malone (36,928), Jordan (32,292) and Chamberlain (31,419). Wilt was the first to do it, and is the only member of the 30,000-points/20,000-rebounds club. Chamberlain is the league’s all-time rebounder with 23,924.
When Bryant was told that he was joining Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and Malone – all of whom played at one time for the Lakers – he acknowledged the historical significance of the organization.
“How unbelievable is that?” Bryant said. “It’s incredible. This franchise — like I’ve said in the past — the guys whose jerseys hang up in the rafters are among the all-time greats. Not just the greats of the franchise. I don’t know if there’s any other organization in sports that can say that.”
Certainly not many.
Bryant, of course, is a well-known historian of the game. He grew up knowing not only about Kareem, Magic Johnson, Jordan and Larry Bird, but understanding the greatness of Bill Russell, Chamberlain, George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Bob Pettit; the players who helped shape the game in its early years.
And with his innate competitiveness, he expected to be mentioned when the conversation turned to great players. But for a different reason than scoring 30,000 points, according to Bryant. He wanted to be known for the titles (5) that he won.
“When I was a kid,” he said, “the only thing I looked at was the ring count. That’s the thing that seemed to be the most important.
“I knew how many Magic had, how many Bird had, how many Doc (Julius Erving) had. Those were the things I looked at really the most. Teams that won and teams that were the most successful. I never really knew that this person or that person had this many thousands of points, to be honest with you.”
Lakers center Dwight Howard said several days ago that he isn’t surprised Bryant is reaching such a lofty plateau.
“When you’re Kobe, it’s pretty easy,” Howard said with a laugh. “Seriously, he’s worked extremely hard for it. It’s been fun to watch and learn (from him), and it’s going to continue to get better.
“He really deserves to be in that group. I’m happy for him.”