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After LA's 100-94 win, Bryant talked about the feat via Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:
Bryant's passing of Jordan has been an inevitability for years, though health issues got in the way. The 36-year-old All-Star missed all but six games in 2013-14, first recovering from a torn Achilles and then suffering a season-ending knee injury.
But fully healthy for the first time in nearly two whole years, Bryant has defied age as his Lakers have sunk to the bottom of the Western Conference. Bryant came into Sunday night averaging 25.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists, stats that would arguably give him the best line of any player at or close to his age.
Those points, however, have come at a cost. Bryant is shooting a career-low 42.1 percent, his usage rate is on pace to be one of the highest in league history and the Lakers have floundered thanks to a roster bereft of elite talent.
The few shining moments for fans at the Staples Center this season have largely revolved around Bryant's assault on the record books. He's already set the NBA record for most missed field goals, passing Boston Celtics Hall of Famer John Havlicek's 13,417 misses, but on a more positive note, he became the first in history to reach 30,000 points and 6,000 assists.
Lofty accomplishments as they may be, they pale in comparison to passing Jordan. Bryant and Jordan are forever joined at the hip as the former's rise coincided with the greatest of all time stepping away from the limelight.
Magic Johnson summed it up nicely in this tweet congratulating Bryant:
Everything about their games invited comparison. From their size (each 6'6"), their demeanor (not always the warmest and fuzziest) and the almost eerie similarities of their games—Jordan has even jokingly told reporters that Bryant "stole" his moves, something Bryant has acknowledged—debate has raged on about whether it'd ever be possible for Bryant to pass his predecessor on the all-time lists.
"The thing that I always bristled at was the notion that I learned everything that I know from Michael," Bryant told Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding this month. "That's just not true. Hakeem Olajuwon deserves a lot of credit; Jerry West deserves a lot of credit. Oscar Robertson deserves a lot of credit. I really was a student of the game and watched everybody.
The Jordan vs. Kobe debate will persist long past Bryant's playing days, largely sparked by children of a younger generation, but it's not a discussion for today, tomorrow or the next day. This is undoubtedly a special moment, a crossed-off goal for Bryant's twilight—even if he doesn't want to admit it.
"I don't even know how many points he has," Bryant told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. "I don't even care."
Bryant still has two all-time greats to pass in Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387). Whether he actually moves past either is a question entirely dependent on health and if he wants to keep playing beyond his two-year contract that expires in 2016. Even if he continues scoring at this rate, it would probably take at least two more years to pass Malone, let alone Jabbar, who is in a league of his own.
Odds are, Jordan will be the last player Bryant passes on the scoring list. Which, given what we know about Bryant, might be just the way he wants it.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter