Bryant surpasses O'Neal in losing effort

Posted: February 06, 2012

Kobe Bryant understands that a player's NBA clock doesn't run forever, so at the age of 33 and in his 16th NBA season the former Lower Merion High star seems to be savoring each and every experience.

And whether it's achieving a new milestone, coming back home to Philadelphia, or in the case of Monday night, doing both, Bryant doesn't take anything for granted these days.

Of course the main goal of the evening eluded Bryant.

The Sixers spoiled Bryant's homecoming by overcoming a seven-point deficit with under five minutes remaining during Monday night's 95-90 win over the Lakers at the charged-up Wells Fargo Center.

Bryant entered Monday's game needing 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for fifth place on the all-time NBA scoring list. He would finish with 28 points, but managed only four after halftime. In the fourth quarter, Bryant shot 1 for 10.

O'Neal had 28,596 points and Bryant now has 28,601.

Bryant talked during the morning shootaround about how special it would be to surpass O'Neal here in Philadelphia. And then he didn't wait very long for it to happen.

Bryant's long jumper just inside the three-point line with 5 minutes, 8 seconds left in the second quarter gave him the 24 points he needed to surpass his former teammate.

In the second half, the Sixers paid particularly more defensive attention to Bryant, sending a second defender at him virtually each time. And both Bryant and the Lakers ran out of gas.

The Lakers only play here once a year and Bryant seems to accept the fact that he is past middle age, at least in NBA years.

"I think the older I get the more I appreciate coming back here playing," Bryant said following Monday's morning shootaround. ". . . I don't know how many more times I will be playing in front of Philadelphia fans at this stage of my career so it means a little more."

Yet don't think Bryant is getting totally sentimental about things. When asked if he was ready to apologize for his graphic prediction in 2001 when he stated in no uncertain terms that the Lakers would beat the Sixers in the NBA Finals, Bryant showed some of his old fire.

"I am not apologizing for saying I am going to come kick some [butt]," he said. "I am not going to do it."

He then showed a different side.

"Certainly I embrace the city and love everything it has taught me and I am deeply appreciative," he said.

Candid as always, he was quoted recently as saying the Lakers are an old team, a statement he isn't backing down from.

"We are old and slow," he said. "You see us in shootarounds and it takes us an hour to warm up. By the time we warm up, practice is over."

He says he envies the Sixers' youth.

"I am sure Andre [Iguodala] has no problem coming out here and doing a 360 as soon as he gets on the court," Bryant said smiling. "I remember those days."

He might feel old, but Bryant is making defenders feel pretty ancient. He entered the game leading the NBA with a 29.4 scoring average.

Before the game, Sixers coach Doug Collins said he hoped it would take Bryant 30 shots to get those 24 points. Collins was only off by 18. Bryant did it on his 12th shot.

"He's a winner, he's a champion, and our league is really blessed to have a guy like that," Collins said before the game. "I wish our guys on a daily basis could be around a guy like that."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at, 856-779-3225 or @sjnard on Twitter.

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