HoopsHype Michael Jordan rumors

December 14, 2014 Updates

I've been lucky enough to cover Bryant since he arrived in 1996 (and his father, Joe, as a Philadelphia 76er in the '70s). Kobe's the most exciting player I ever saw. routinely doing stuff that defied belief. Unfortunately, they don't give you extra points for degree of difficulty. If they did, Kobe would have been the greatest there ever was. No one may have ever been to the heights that Bryant reached at his zenith, simply because no one else ever did anything close to what he did while taking shots as crazy and making the game as hard. Forbes.com

Scott thinks so. "Jordan, back in the day, they said he was a tough guy to play with because he was so demanding," Scott said. "He was punching guys in practice and things of that sort. And Kobe is in that same cloth." Just ask Smush Parker, who once said Bryant told him in practice, "You can't talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me." ESPN.com

He is also the only person to have served as head coach for both players, at any level, which makes him an almost unquestionable authority on one of the most popular comparisons in all of sports, and all of sports history. But Bryant disputes this claim from Jackson. All of it. "Nah, it's a myth," Bryant said. "Phil likes to say things a lot of times to create good content, to create good stories, as most [reporters] do." ESPN.com

Bryant is early in his 19th NBA season. He doesn't know whether he'll play after his current contract expires following next season, although Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak suspects Bryant will retire. If surpassing Jordan's career points total is Bryant's final milestone on his rise, he'll be grateful to sit alongside one of his heroes. "It's not like a distraction or anything," Bryant said. "It's not like it's (not) going to happen. I just take it all in stride." USA Today Sports

December 13, 2014 Updates
December 12, 2014 Updates

At 36, in his 19th season, Bryant is poised to pass Jordan for third on the NBA's career scoring list. He needs just 31 points to do it, meaning it will likely happen on the Lakers' next road trip starting Friday in San Antonio. It is a momentous achievement, one that once again intersects Bryant's career arc with Jordan's and underscores all the similarities in their games -- not to mention the unique role Bryant has played in connecting past with present. And future. "I think a lot of people saw the highlights of him, the dunks or the fancy layups. But as a kid, I saw more than that. I saw how he got there," Bryant told CBSSports.com. "I saw footwork. I saw spacing. I saw how to use screens. That's what I saw. That's what's different from a lot of kids who came up during my era. They saw the highlights, but I saw how he got to those highlights." CBSSports.com

"I think a lot of people saw the highlights of him, the dunks or the fancy layups. But as a kid, I saw more than that. I saw how he got there," Bryant told CBSSports.com. "I saw footwork. I saw spacing. I saw how to use screens. That's what I saw. That's what's different from a lot of kids who came up during my era. They saw the highlights, but I saw how he got to those highlights." CBSSports.com

And unlike his brash talking as a 17-year-old senior, Bryant did not share this standard with teammates. “Kobe never spoke of trying to surpass this guy or that guy. He just worked every day,” said Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, Bryant’s former teammate and assistant coach. “It’s not an accident he’s as good as he is. It didn’t just happen. He put in the time.” Now that he has, Bryant believes he has achieved something besides adding fuel to the comparisons with Jordan. Bryant carved his own identity. “We’ve had different career paths,” Bryant said. “But I feel a great sense of accomplishment having to carry on the two-guard legacy from Jerry to Michael to myself.” Los Angeles Daily News

December 11, 2014 Updates

The influence is obvious. Watch Bryant operate from the low post or on the baseline, then imagine those moves being done in a red-and-black No. 23 jersey instead of his purple-and-gold No. 24. There's a presence, a competitive fire that defines each legend. Jordan's tongue-wagging has been replaced by Bryant's jutting chin and jersey-gnawing. "I think Kobe Bryant studied MJ, to be honest," Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. "The way he moves, even after he won his fifth championship he did the same celebration that MJ did (pumping his fist and rallying the home crowd). ... I think he models most of the things he does after Jordan." USA Today Sports

Then there's that selfishness argument. "Kobe, he did it, but I think his instinct was to go to himself," said seven-time All-Star Grant Hill, now an analyst for NBATV. "And he was extremely successful. Jordan was more inside, more physical, more around the basket even as he got older. ... Kobe tended to take and make tougher shots. He would take a lot of shots that you'd say, 'That's just a bad shot.' But he made them. Whereas I always felt like Jordan got what he wanted." USA Today Sports

The elementary-school kids emulating that batch of "next Jordans" now are in their 20s, filling up NBA rosters. Debates of Bryant, Carter (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and McGrady (retired but discussing a comeback) now are tinged with nostalgia. "For sure, there's no question; he definitely won that debate," said Lakers shooting guard Wayne Ellington, 27. "I grew up really watching Kobe a lot. ... I've always just loved his game, ever since him coming out of high school. I watched him close." Wade insists Jordan will forever be the measuring stick for shooting guards. But he also acknowledges his sons (the oldest is 12) know Jordan "probably more so because of his sneakers," he said. USA Today Sports

December 10, 2014 Updates

Mike Trudell: I asked Kobe if he expected to hear from Jordan after he passes him on the scoring list. Bryant said he and MJ communicate often. Twitter @LakersReporter

December 9, 2014 Updates
December 8, 2014 Updates

If Bryant stays near his current pace for the rest of this season and next, he'll not only pass Jordan before his current deal is done, he'll start getting within striking distance of Karl Malone's 36,928 points, second on the all-time list. It will take more work than Bryant is currently under contract for to approach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record of 38,387 points. (Bryant shared his feelings about passing Jordan, with whom he has a close relationship, in a solid bit of reporting last week by Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding.) It has not been a topic of conversation in the locker room. "When he does pass it," Kupchak said, "it's a testimony to consistency and playing at a high level for a long time. I think that's nice, but I think we all know that he would trade that for a team that competes for the playoffs or a championship." NBA.com

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