Despite being a road game, the game was stopped completely and Bryant was given the game ball. Now, LeBron James — who already unceremoniously passed Jordan last season — is gearing up to pass Bryant.
As it stands, James is 65 points behind Bryant with three Lakers road games coming up. A matchup against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, then a bout against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, and finally a primetime game against the Philadelphia 76ers. James will need to average about 22 points a game if he wants to pass Bryant on this trip.
For some reason, many expected Bryant to have a hint of angst about being passed by James. However, due to Jordan’s reaction when Bryant passed him, he knows the meaning of such a moment for James, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
Jordan texted Bryant to congratulate him. That message remains Bryant’s favorite memory from that night, and the sentiment behind it is something he will pay forward to James.
Bryant said the text from Jordan showed him that it’s all a ‘brotherhood’ and that it’s nothing but love and respect between him and James now that the latter will be passing him on such a prestigious list:
“That was the most important thing,” Bryant said last week. “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.”
To many, this reaction from Bryant seems obvious. Those who thought Bryant wouldn’t have all the respect in the world for James either don’t remember his competitive spirit that well or want to create a story where there is none.
In addition to that, the fact that James will be getting such a historic feat in a Lakers uniform is even more reason for Bryant to be happy. For Bryant, this isn’t a rival passing him and diminishing his accomplishments. This is a Laker making history in the same way he did.
While Bryant won’t be in attendance when James passes him, it’s more than likely he pays his respects in some way as someone becoming third on the all-time scoring list doesn’t happen often, especially not with two Lakers in a row.