SACRAMENTO — At a time when very little has gone the Lakers way, there’s at least one element that’s proven consistently durable.
Kobe Bryant’s scoring.
He made another milestone in that department, becoming the fourth highest NBA scorer in league history by surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 points.
Bryant got off to a shaky start tonight against the Sacramento Kings, going scoreless in the first quarter by missing his first three field-goal attempts and one free throw. But Bryant eventually reached the milestone after hitting a mid-range jumper with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter. Bryant also scored off a free throw and a drive to the basket.
Bryant’s latest accomplishment spans a storied 17-year NBA career that includes five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP and four All-Star MVPs. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928) and Michael Jordan (32,292) have scored more baskets in NBA history. Earlier this season, the Lakers guard also became the youngest player to surpass 30,000 career points at 34 years and 105 days old.
How much higher can Bryant climb the list?
“As high as he wants it,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s going to be totally up to him. He has the opportunity to do that if that’s what he wants to do. It depends how far he wants to push himself and get into his career. It’s a matter of more years to get to those numbers. As compettivie as he is and as a hard worker as he is, he will get there if he plays enough years. It’s a matter of time.”
Bryant has suggested throughout this season that he may retired after his contract ends following the 2013-14 season. Should he stick to that timetable, it’s likely Bryant would surpass Jordan on the list at some point next season and finish as the NBA’s third leading scorer.
“I don’t know for sure if he’s going to do that at 35 to retire,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “But that’s going to be totally up to him whether he’s had enough or if he still wants to keep giving it a go and try to fight for more championships. With the kind of career that he has, that’s basically what he’ll be playing for. I don’t think he’ll be playing just to get a scoring title.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com