Reporting from Memphis, Tenn. — What next for Kobe Bryant?
He was appreciative after passing Jerry West to become the Lakers' all-time scoring leader, calling it a "great honor," but is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time NBA mark a possibility?
Time will be the final judge, as always, but Bryant said he would "probably" be able to do it.
Bryant, 31, has 25,208 points in his 14th season. Abdul-Jabbar had 38,387 in 20 seasons before retiring a few months before his 42nd birthday.
"He's going to play a long time," West recently said of Bryant. "Most of the players who scored 25,000 points, they were 22 years old when they started. He was obviously 18 when he first got started. It wouldn't surprise me to see him score in the 30,000s. But health is an issue and age. There's one opponent you can't defeat and that's age. (Pause.) He will try that, by the way."
Bryant said he could catch Abdul-Jabbar "if I play that long, probably. We'll see how my body feels."
Bryant was unfailingly polite in thanking West after the Lakers' 95-93 loss Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryant broke West's record of 25,192 on a fastbreak dunk with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
West returned the admiration in an interview over the weekend.
"He's someone I greatly admire," West said. "I've watched his career from the time he was 17 years old and couldn't even sign a contract. You see where he is today. The people of Los Angeles have been blessed to have him around."
Bryant had 44 points on 16-for-28 shooting Monday.
At the same time, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson thought Bryant was distracted by trying to break the record.
"At halftime, I told the guys he's forcing the action and let's get him over the hump so we can start playing team ball out there," Jackson said. "But it didn't seem like we ever did. It looked like it was Kobe, and Ron [Artest] chipped in, but nobody else could really get going."
Jackson said the record was "not important."
"The win [would have been] important. He's going to get that record regardless. It could have come tonight, it could have come another night. But, you know, we're happy for him."
Bryant is 13th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, 71 points behind Reggie Miller.
Maybe next game
Jackson wasn't as successful Monday in his pursuit of a franchise record. He is still tied with Pat Riley at 533 coaching victories with the Lakers.
Jackson considers most records to be mere minutiae in the landscape of a career. This one appears to be no different.
"I certainly didn't expect to be here this long," he said. "I probably wouldn't be if I didn't have such a great relationship with some of the Buss family."
Jackson, of course, has been a longtime companion of Lakers business executive Jeanie Buss.
Jackson, 64, spoke of his past rivalry with Riley when both were coaching in the Eastern Conference, Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Riley with the New York Knicks.
According to Jackson, Riley started out a playoff series by criticizing the fact that Michael Jordan got all the favorable calls. Jackson countered by saying Patrick Ewing got away with traveling on a consistent basis.
"Pat and I got caught up on something. . . . " Jackson said, smiling. "We went tit-for-tat in a seven-game series. It was quite an interesting exchange. Finally, the league had to tell us to calm down a little bit."
"We have a great respect for each other after all those years of competing against each other," Jackson said.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.