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Exclamation points for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers

All-Star guard joins the 30,000-point club and Lakers end two-game losing streak with a 103-87 victory over the Hornets. Next up: the Thunder.

December 05, 2012|By Ben Bolch
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NEW ORLEANS — As the Lakers disembarked from their charter flight early Wednesday morning, Kobe Bryant remained in his seat.

He wasn't exactly lingering to warmly greet his teammates as they filed past.

Bryant was quietly stewing, though his mood would significantly brighten by the end of the day.

The Lakers guard became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points while helping his team log its own milestone during a 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

Bryant scored 29 points at New Orleans Arena as the Lakers secured their second road triumph of the season in seven games.

It was the pick-me-up the Lakers needed before their trip takes a potentially turbulent turn Friday in Oklahoma City against the defending Western Conference champions.

"This is the benchmark for everybody in the West," Bryant said of the Thunder.

After consecutive clunkers against Orlando and Houston, the struggling Lakers (9-10) looked better against the lowly Hornets, particularly as they pulled away in the second half amid improved defense.

Lakers forward Antawn Jamison shook off a rolled ankle on the way to 15 points and center Dwight Howard was a menacing presence while accumulating 18 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

But the night, and the moment, belonged to Bryant, as so many others have during a career that has spanned 17 seasons, five championships and 30,016 points. He had four dunks and three steals, looking nimble for a veteran playing his second game in 48 hours.

"Honestly, I don't why I'm still working as hard as I am after 17 years," said Bryant, who reached the scoring milestone against the franchise that drafted him in 1996. "It's just, I enjoy what I do. I think that's the thing I'm most proud of is every year and every day working hard at it. It's a lot of years, a lot of work."

The basket that nudged Bryant into the 30,000-point club alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain came without fanfare late in the second quarter, as if it were just another basket in an early-season game.

Bryant elevated for a one-handed floater in the lane over the outstretched arm of Robin Lopez, triggering only a few scattered cheers. The scoreboard didn't note the achievement. The game didn't stop.

Finally, before the start of the second half, the public-address announcer saluted Bryant for becoming the youngest player to reach the 30,000-point plateau, at 34 years 104 days. Bryant hugged his teammates along the bench and gave a quick wave to the crowd.

"That's a lot of points for anybody," Howard said. "It's well-deserved. He got his milestone and now it's time to get something else."

NBA Commissioner David Stern happened to be on hand for the occasion, merely by coincidence. He offered Bryant his congratulations before the game, telling reporters Bryant was "up there on the pedestal with Michael Jordan as one of the greatest ever."

Bryant loitered at his locker long after the game, unusually eager to engage reporters. He called himself fortunate to have had such a long career and spoke glowingly of the other scoring greats, saying he inherited his ultra-competitive nature from Jordan.

Did Bryant expect to field a congratulatory call from Jordan, whom he's trying to catch in both championships and points?

"Knowing him the way I know him, probably not," Bryant said. "I probably wouldn't call [him] either."

Twitter: @latbbolch

Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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