NBA great Michael Jordan had a big challenge for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant when Bryant passed him earlier this year on the NBA’s all-time scoring list: “Go get Karl.” But is there any chance that Kobe could score enough to pass Karl Malone? Should he even try?
The Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson got to talk to Kobe Bryant on Christmas after the Lakers fell to the Chicago Bulls in a matchup that brought former Laker center Pau Gasol back onto the floor against his old franchise. Kobe sat out the game – his second missed game in a row – but Johnson did ask Kobe his feelings on seeing Pau in Chicago red, as well as what it felt like to pass another Bulls great, Michael Jordan, on the all-time scoring list.
“It was more of a thankful feeling to Michael,” Kobe said, “and the players who came before, because I’ve learned so much from them. And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve literally just stolen [stuff] from them – like spin moves and pull-ups. It’s not me passing these players. It’s us.”
Kobe also revealed what Jordan told him when he finally passed Jordan. The Bulls great, another of the most competitive players ever to take the court, said Kobe shouldn’t be satisfied to take third place.
“‘Go get Karl,'” Bryant revealed what Jordan said, referring to Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone. “The competitor never stops.”
It’s a fun challenge from one NBA great to another, but Jordan’s charge to “Go get Karl” would be a tall order for Kobe to fill. Malone scored 36,928 over the course of 19 years, putting him second behind Kareem Abdul Jabaar’s 38,387 points. Kobe sits in third place with 32,365. Even if the Laker guard were to keep up his current rate of 25.4 points per game it would take another 180 regular-season games to “get Karl.”
After 19 years in the league, Kobe Bryant, one of the most competitive players ever to take the court, is feeling the effects of an opponent he can’t beat: Father Time. Kobe sat out against Chicago, citing soreness all over, and he’s expected to stay in street clothes for at least another few games. Laker coach Byron Scott will likely start relying on “pitch count basketball” when it comes to managing Kobe’s minutes, ensuring that the Laker great ends his career on the court, and not in a suit on the sidelines.
So can Kobe catch Karl? It’s not looking very likely. But with that third place spot, one spot above his idol Jordan, he doesn’t even need to in order to secure his spot in the NBA’s pantheon of greatness.
[Lead image via NBA.com.]