Leading Off

Leading Off: Bryant passes MJ for points, not greatness

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) holds up the game ball and acknowledges the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list in Minneapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) holds up the game ball and acknowledges the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list in Minneapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. AP

Bryant passes MJ for points, not greatness

You almost feel sorry for Kobe Bryant, don’t you?

In his 19th season with the Los Angeles Lakers after entering the NBA out of high school, Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan to move into third place on the league’s all-time scoring list Sunday in a 100-94 victory over Minnesota.

Bryant scored 26 points against the Timberwolves, giving him a total of 32,310. He trails only Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387 and former Utah Jazz great Karl Malone with 36,928.

But instead of receiving accolades for his milestone, Bryant is being kept in check by those insisting he’ll never compare to Jordan, no matter how many points the future Hall of Famer scores.

Instead of giving Bryant credit, he’s being reminded the only reason he passed Jordan is because MJ missed the 1993-94 season to pursue a short-lived baseball career, then retired prematurely for three seasons (1998-99 to 2000-01) before his final two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

If Jordan had played those four years, critics say, he would have surpassed Abdul-Jabbar with 40,000 points. And besides, what do points matter when you have six NBA championships, six Finals MVPs and five league MVP awards like Jordan?

Bryant entered the league in the shadows of Jordan, played second fiddle to Shaquille O’Neal in the Lakers’ championship run from 1999-2000 to 2001-02 and is now being labeled as selfish late in his career while LeBron James reigns as the league’s marquee player.

To further keep Bryant in his place, most Lakers fans will say he doesn’t even rank among the franchise’s greatest players – Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar.

Now on a last-place team, Bryant seemingly will never get this recognition he deserves and craves.

– Victor Contreras

vcontreras@sacbee.com


What to watch

NFL, Saints at Bears, 5:30 p.m., ESPN: What looked like a great mid-December matchup in August will be a matchup of 5-8 teams playing out the string.


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