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Kobe Bryant passes Dominique Wilkins as NBA's 10th-leading scorer

Bryant now has 26,671 career points and will soon pass Oscar Robertson on the all-time list.

January 05, 2011|By Kevin Baxter

The record came on an otherwise uneventful play in the third period of a game the Lakers already led by 16 points. Kobe Bryant, once again taking things into his own hands, drove to the basket and laid the ball in off the glass.

It's something Bryant has done a million times. Only this time it was different. Because with that basket Tuesday he passed Dominique Wilkins to become the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history, an accomplishment so big and so important that nobody even noticed until late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 108-83 rout of the Detroit Pistons, when the Staples Center PA announcer told the crowd.

By then Bryant had been on the bench for about 20 minutes.

"It's cool. It's a great honor," said Bryant, who said he, too, knew nothing of the milestone until he heard the announcement. "Those kinds of things are things that you kind of look back [at] in hindsight when your career's all over.

"It's not something where I put a ton of significance on it."

Bryant finished with 26,671 career points.

It was fitting that he passed Wilkins on a layin, though, and not a dunk. Wilkins, after all, was an impressive and frightening dunker in his day, rattling rims all over the NBA en route to his 26,668 career points.

Bryant, more often than not, goes for the easy layup.

"His dunks. That's what it was all about with him," Bryant said of Wilkins, a player he said he admired as a young player. "His jumping ability and the way he powered through players. That, to me, was spectacular."

Asked if he ever imitated Wilkins, Bryant broke into a wide smile.

"Yeah, on those 6-foot hoops," he said. "In my prime I couldn't do things that Dominique was doing. That's just unbelievable stuff."

With the way things started for Bryant on Tuesday, it hardly looked like it would be a memorable night. With both hands sporting wraps to protect sprained fingers, Bryant was 0 for 9 from the field in the first period, scoring just one point. Which isn't to say he wasn't effective. His five assists helped the Lakers to a quick lead, one they never relinquished.

Besides, Bryant's biggest contribution Tuesday probably came before the game. With a number of soap-opera storylines swirling around the Lakers, Bryant gathered his teammates in a circle before tipoff and challenged them to rise above the rancor.

"It's L.A. That [stuff] always happens to some degree," he said. "Before the game I made sure I told the guys right before we went out onto the court, I said listen to how everybody's talking about you. Embrace this. This comes with the territory of being back-to-back champs. You have to deal with it, you have to embrace it and you have to use it as fuel and motivation.

"The things that matter the most are the people that are in this huddle right here. Not what's going on outside, If we stay focused on that, we'll be fine."

Eventually Bryant was fine, too, scoring eight points in each of the next two periods before going to the bench with 2:45 left in the third quarter. By then the Lakers were up by 18.

At the end of the period he was joined on the bench by Pau Gasol, who had a game-high 21 points on seven-of-11 shooting.

Nearly 45 minutes after the game, Bryant was the last Laker remaining in the locker room. There was only 15 minutes left for Bryant to get to the airport for the team's flight to Phoenix, where the Lakers meet the Suns tonight.

Clearly, he wasn't going to make it, but Bryant was confident the team wouldn't leave without him. After all, he and the Lakers have some unfinished business to attend to. And we're not talking only about the team's drive for a third straight title.

Next up for Bryant on the scoring list is Oscar Robertson with 26,710 points, 39 points ahead of Bryant. He could catch Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone before the season's over.

"It's another credit, another notch in his belt," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant's climb up the scoring ladder. "I think they take great deal of pride in the fact that they're there on the all-time list."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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