Kobe Bryant – Beating Shaquille O’Neal and Reaching Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant had plenty to celebrate on an individual level, scoring 28 points which put him at 28,601 career points, fifth all time. The kicker? It put him over Shaquille O’Neal, with 28,596, falling to sixth. Too bad that between all the celebrating, the Lakers lost to the 76ers 95-90, dropping to a 14-11 record.

And after Bryant was hotter than anyone else in the league last month, his plentiful shooting and happy trigger finger are hurting the Lakers. He attempted 26 shots from the field, above his average of 24 attempts per game. He’s leading the league in scoring with 29.3 points per game, but he’s shooting 44.4% from the field, a bit lower than his career number.

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LeBron James, for example, is right behind with 29.2 point per game, but is an incredible 55.2% from the field, attempting 19 field goals per game. The best offensive player in the league, as some like to argue, Kevin Durant, averages 27 points per game, shooting just over 50% from the field as well. But Bryant, well, he’s in a zone of his own, where success is measured differently.

It should be after five title rings and two consecutive NBA finals’ MVP. He has the same number of rings Magic Johnson has, and many would argue that Bryant is the greatest Laker in history. Numbers already say he is. That fifth ring was even more important because of the Shaq factor. You don’t really need to know Bryant personally in order to know what it meant to him.

Winning one, then two, without Shaq. Watching O’Neal move to Miami and win one with Wade. Now passing O’Neal on the all time scoring list, putting only Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him.

Bryant should reach 30,000 next season. Assuming he doesn’t sustain any long term injuries, and there’s no head coach or anyone in the locker room to tell him to stop shooting, who knows where he’ll stop? Getting that sixth ring, just like Michael Jordan, doesn’t seem likely at the moment, but passing him on the all time scoring list, despite more games and seasons, should make Bryant a happier man when he finally retires and his huge ego can move on to other endeavors.

The Lakers? They’re doing OK, but not as good as they should be. Bryant taking up 32% of the field goal attempts isn’t their worst problem. A point guard, finding out what to do with Metta World Peace, depth issues, a sleep walking Pau Gasol half the time. Still, Bryant seems to be on a different mission compared with the rest of the team. Winning is just a bonus. His goals, at this point in his career, seem purely individual.