Kobe Bryant continues to make history.
Bryant is one of just five players—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain—to hit the 31,000-point milestone. He is also now within 500 points of surpassing Chamberlain to become the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history.
The fact that Kobe continues to score at such a torrid pace 17 years into his professional career is astounding. At the age of 34, he averages over 25 points per game with the utmost of ease.
He remains more than 7,000 points shy of the all-time leader, Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), but it appears certain he'll at least supersede both Chamberlain (31,419) and Jordan (32,292) on his way to setting up shop as the third-highest scoring player in history.
Fittingly enough, Kobe's latest milestone comes at a time when the Lakers most need a productive distraction.
Los Angeles has spent much of the season attempting to persevere through unyielding turmoil, plenty of which has been spurred by Bryant.
Could he coexist with Dwight Howard? Are his still serial-shooting tendencies creating a toxic atmosphere? Are the Lakers going to crumble under his watch?
We often like to make Bryant out to be some sort of villain, painting him as someone who actually means less to his team and the game than some of his peers, specifically the four he is now in the company of.
Where will Kobe Bryant rank on the all-time scoring list upon retirement?
Let it be known, though, that Kobe is the only one of these five potent scorers to score each and every one of his points with the same team. Not even the close-to-lifelong member of the Chicago Bulls, Jordan, can even say that.
Admittedly, this will mean very little when pundits attempt to disprove his legacy, when they try to discredit what he's done. No matter how many points he scores or championships he wins, Bryant's value will continue to be disputed and debated until he retires.
For the second time this season, though, Bryant has irrefutably reminded us all that he's still one of the greatest scorers, and athletes, to ever play this game.
That he is still the heart and soul of the Lakers.
That he is just as illustrious, just as devoted a player as ever.
And that, 17 years later, we can still count on Kobe.