MINNEAPOLIS >> Kobe Bryant has reached rarefied air.
The Los Angeles Lakers star passed Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s career scoring list Sunday night in a 100-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Bryant entered the game needing nine points to pass the icon with whom he is often compared. He got the mark with two free throws with 5:24 to play in the second quarter.
Kobe Bryant is behind only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in total points scored in the NBA and ABA:
Now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone have scored more points than Bryant.
"I congratulate Kobe on reaching this milestone," Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in a statement released to the Associated Press. "He’s obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. I’ve enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next."
Bryant didn’t break a record Sunday night. Abdul-Jabbar is still more than 6,000 points ahead of him and in no danger of being caught. But moving past Jordan was cause for celebration.
The two players have been linked for years and Bryant often mimicked Jordan from his earliest days in the league, from the way he pumped his fist after big shots to adopting the fade-away jumper as his career has progressed and even sprinkling in a little tongue-wagging on his drives to the bucket as a youth.
The Timberwolves stopped the game, and a Lakers-heavy crowd gave Bryant a standing ovation as Wolves owner Glen Taylor — the NBA’s chairman of the board — presented him with the game ball.
With a big smile on his face, Bryant received hugs from teammates and the Timberwolves, and waved to the crowd during the brief stoppage.
Bryant has been chasing Jordan for almost two decades now. He’s still one title short of the six Jordan won with the Bulls.
Bryant had 32,284 points when he took the floor against a Timberwolves team that includes 19-year-old rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, two players who were barely born when Bryant made his NBA debut in 1996.
He missed four of his first five field goals, but knocked down a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter to pull within two points. He nearly passed Jordan with one of his patented fall-away jumpers from the baseline, but it rimmed out and with 5:24 to play and 24 seconds on the shot clock, No. 24 stepped to the line and calmly swished two freebies to do it. He finished the night with 26 points and 32,310 for his career.
It took Bryant 1,269 games to reach the NBA’s career scoring podium. Jordan amassed his 32,292 points in 1,039 regular-season games.