LeBron James is close to passing Kobe Bryant on the all-time NBA points list.
The LA Lakers forward is currently fourth on the league's all-time scoring list but, after scoring 15 points in Monday's defeat to the Boston Celtics, is only 65 points behind Bryant in third.
Bryant, who won five NBA titles playing for the Lakers, retired in 2016 with a total of 33,643 points. Only former Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone (36,928) and another Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (38,387) scored more.
LeBron, currently on 33,587 points, could pass the mark before the end of this week with games at the New York Knicks (Thur), Brooklyn Nets (Fri) and Philadelphia 76ers (Sun).
Live NBA: L.A. Lakers @ Brooklyn
Kobe, like Michael Jordan (5th all-time) before him was a famously ruthless competitor, so how would he react to LeBron going above him on the points list?
"It's great," Bryant said to The Athletic. "I think it's great for him. I mean, the amount of work he's put in over his career, consistency, I think it's awesome."
In 2014,when Bryant passed Michael Jordan (still widely accepted as the GOAT) and moved into third on the list, Jordan texted Kobe to congratulate him. "That was the most important thing," said Bryant.
"That was cool. Because it's such a brotherhood, such an amount of respect between us as players, and you know the amount of work and consistency you have to put in over time so it's nothing but love and respect."
So, can LeBron catch the top two? At his current scoring rate of 25.5 points per game he could pass Malone sometime in the 2021-22 season, and would need another 60 or so games to pass Abdul-Jabbar, at which point he would be 38.
Carmelo Anthony (18th on the list) was in the same draft class as James in 2003, so what does he think about his friend's pursuit of the record? "Nobody thought that could be touched," Anthony said, "but he's right there, so…
"I don't know how much longer he wants to play, but that's up to him. If that's in his mirror, I'm sure he will try to achieve that."