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SACRAMENTO -- Move over Big Dipper. Make way for the Black Mamba.
Kobe Bryant moved into fourth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list in the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Sacramento Kings, passing Wilt Chamberlain.
Bryant's pull-up jumper from the foul line with 7:55 remaining in the second quarter gave Bryant 31,421 points for his career, edging past Chamberlain's 31,419 total.
"What a journey," Bryant said after scoring 19 points and handing out 14 assists, one shy of his career high, in the Lakers' 103-98 win over the Kings. "It's been a very, very long journey. I'm certainly extremely appreciative of all the support and the Laker faithful, the 'Laker Nation,' from being a 17-year-old kid to a 34-year-old man and all the support they've given me throughout my career."
Bryant was especially touched by passing Chamberlain.
"I remember the first time I met him when I was about eight years old," Bryant said. "The first thing that struck me was that, the first thing I thought of was he was 'Bombata' from ['Conan the Destroyer']. That was the most impressive thing to me. He was just such a warm-hearted gentleman and I have nothing but praise for him, obviously. To pass him up is a huge honor, to say the least."
Now, Bryant trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928) and Michael Jordan (32,292).
Bryant had passed former teammate Shaquille O'Neal last season to occupy the No. 5 spot.
"I just want No. 6, man," Bryant said, referring to his championship count, when asked where he wanted to finish on the all-time scoring list when he retires. "I'm not asking for too much, man. Just give me a sixth ring, damn it."
While the Lakers are struggling just to make the playoffs this season, moving up the scoring list seems more feasible than another title at this point. Bryant is 34 and in his 17th season, but even as he's aged, his scoring has hardly taken a dip (27.2 points per game average in 2012-13 after 27.9 a year ago).
"It depends on him and his body and mentally if he wants to keep going through this," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after shootaround Saturday. "I would expect he would. He still hasn't lost a whole lot and he's 34 years old. Guys are now playing to 38-40. That's on him. But his body and what he's doing, he's great."
Bryant and Chamberlain already have been linked through their penchant for points in the past, as Bryant broke Chamberlain's Philadelphia area high school scoring record by finishing with 2,883 points to Chamberlain's 2,252. Bryant's 81-point game on Jan. 22, 2006, also happens to be the second highest single-scoring game in league history, trailing only Chamberlain's 100 scored on March 2, 1962.
Honestly the biggest thing I take out of it is just the longevity. That's the thing I'm most proud of is being able to play for so many years and still be playing at a very, very high level.” -- Kobe Bryant
Bryant had ties to Chamberlain even before he was born. Chamberlain attended Overbrook High School with Bryant's grandmother and even asked her to the prom (she declined because she was already dating the man who would become Bryant's grandfather at the time). Chamberlain also was familiar with Bryant's father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, who played at LaSalle University in Philadelphia and later in the NBA for several teams including the Sixers.
"He knew me as Jellybean's son," Bryant said of Chamberlain. "He picked me up and just showed me all the love in the world because us Philly players all stick together. He knew my father, he knew my uncle [Chubby Cox who played in the league] and the family and stuff ... We have a close relationship indirectly through my family and so forth."
While it took more than 40 years for another player to score 80 points or more after Chamberlain scored 100, Bryant said his and Chamberlain's scoring totals are achievable.
"I believe so," Bryant said when asked if any player would ever join him and Chamberlain with a matching single-game scoring outburst. "One day, it will happen."
The occasion of yet another milestone prompted the question again if Bryant would stick to his stated plan of retiring after one or two more seasons.
"It's really just if I want to play," Bryant said. "I could play. I could change my role completely and play point guard and average 12 assists, you know what I mean? Twenty points and 12 assists. It's just a matter if I want to play. That's all."
What does Bryant feel about Jordan being next on the list?
"Honestly the biggest thing I take out of it is just the longevity," Bryant said. "That's the thing I'm most proud of is being able to play for so many years and still be playing at a very, very high level. That's the thing that I'm most proud of. Michael and I have obviously had two completely different career paths, but the common denominator, the thing that we both share is our passion for the game and our commitment to the game."
"It's just a testament to how durable, how good he is," D'Antoni said. "He'll be talked about as one of the greatest. Everybody will debate it and he's right there in the conversation. He's terrific."
Assuming Bryant catches Jordan for No. 3, would he stick around to go for Abdul-Jabbar at No. 1?
"I don't see it happening but if I change my mind and decide to play a little bit longer and be a 'PG,' then that's what I'll do," Bryant said.
Bryant was more definitive in an interview with NBA.com after the game, saying he would "in all likelihood" make a decision this summer on when he would retire and that next season would probably be his last.
"As I sit here right now, yeah," Bryant said.