With Lakers guard Kobe Bryant becoming the fifth and fastest player in NBA history to score 30,000 points, Dime is looking at all angles of the five-time champion’s career today. (Hey, we already called him the greatest player since 2000.) It’s equal parts celebration and examination of one of the NBA’s most polarizing and talented players in history.
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Kobe Bryant fought for every point to eclipse the 30,000 mark. He had to play through numerous injuries and go against the stingiest and most stifling defenses in order to score. Guess what? He was able to do it and in some cases made it look easy.
Kobe isn’t an angel. He’s always been known to flap his gums and be testy towards his opponents but at least he backed it up on a regular basis. He’s dealt with beef from opponents, the Raja Bells of the world, and even overcome conflicts with his own teammates, including Shaq and Smush Parker.
Regardless, this milestone will be remembered for how he earned his buckets over certain key rivals and people he beefed with. During Bryant’s 16-plus seasons in the NBA he’s matched up against hundreds of opponents. These are the few who stood out as Kobe’s personal rivals.
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10. MICHAEL JORDAN
Just imagine if Kobe played against Mike now. Though we’ll never know how those two would have fared against one another during their primes, we could still marvel at their battles earlier on in Kobe’s career. With MJ ready to relinquish his coveted throne to the next young great player, Kobe was primed and ready to take up on the task of being the one to do it. Jordan – who Kobe dubbed as his idol – was fresh off his fourth title when the two went head to head in ’97. Jordan’s Bulls single-handedly destroyed Bryant’s Lakers by 21. The most intriguing thing about that game was not Jordan’s 36 points in 35 minutes, but Kobe’s 33 points in 29 minutes. That was off the bench. Number 8 would later drop 20 off the bench against Mike that season as well.
Then there was the first All-Star Game matchup in Madison Square Garden where Bryant went at Jordan, and the GOAT proudly responded, turning the game into as close to a one-on-one battle as you’ll get in the ego-laden midseason classic.
The game that people will probably remember most, perhaps unfairly, was when Mike and Kobe squared off for Jordan’s final game against his protégé on March 23, 2003. Kobe scorched MJ for 55, with 42 coming in the first half. A fan even held a sign that said “Goodbye Michael, Hello Kobe.”