Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is a mere 18 points away from the No. 3 spot on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Once his career scoring total climbs to 33,644 points, he will pass a player revered by Lakers fans worldwide: Kobe Bryant.
However upset some Lakers fans may be about James supplanting Bryant on the all-time scoring charts, Bryant himself is not giving it a second thought. To him, being concerned about such matters is akin to foolishness.
“I don't know if people want that or want to have this kind of contentious thing where you don't want records to be broken or people there to surpass you,” Bryant told USA Today Sports' Mark Medina in an story published Wednesday. “You should be happy for the person that comes after you to be able to surpass things that you've done. It's kind of juvenile to think or to behave any other way.”
James scored 27 points Thursday in a 128-113 road win against the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers will next face the 76ers in Philadelphia (8:30 ET, ABC) on Saturday. James is averaging 24 ppg over his last six games and has scored 30 or more in two of those six games.
This season, the 35-year-old James is averaging 25.2 ppg and a league-best 10.8 apg. He has piled up 10 triple-doubles, which trails only Magic Johnson's single-season franchise record of 13. In short, James has been playing at a much higher level after injuries sapped his 2018-19 debut campaign with the Lakers and he missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Bryant has been watching this season and admiring James' performance, and was even on hand with daughter Gianna for a Nov. 18 win against the Atlanta Hawks.
“He's coming in this year with a chip on his shoulder obviously because of what everybody was saying that he's washed up,” Bryant told USA Today Sports. “When I first came into the league, the average age was like 33 or 32. Now that you're 35, [the narrative], is ‘You're washed up and you're dying.’ It’s kind of silly. But I think he's doing a fantastic job.”
James has kept himself all season and has only missed two games after being sidelined for a career-high 27 of them last season. That durability has allowed James to move in on Bryant on the scoring list. As his career waned, Bryant dealt with injuries, including ones to his left Achillies, left knee and right shoulder that caused him to miss a combined 139 games in his final three seasons.
Those maladies kept Bryant from overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 career points) or Karl Malone (36,928) on the all-time scoring list. However, he told USA Today Sports he didn't regret not being able to move up higher on the list, but instead wished his Lakers teams could have faced off against James' Cavs or Miami Heat in The Finals.
Bryant, who won an Academy Award for his 2018 short film "Dear Basketball", likened that missed Finals showdown to an award chase.
“Competition is about competition,” Bryant said. “It's like competing with things that you can control. If you’re competing as somebody mano a mano, it's different. Of course, you want to win. But if it's things that aren't in your control?
“I can't control whether you win an Oscar or not. You do the best that you can and you make the story as good as you can make it and then you sit down and you just chill. If our name wasn't getting called in that envelope, I would've been happy for the group that won because I know the amount of work that goes into that and respect that.”