On Wednesday night, with Kobe Bryant well on his way to scoring 29 points during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 103-87 win against the New Orleans Hornets, it was the bucket he sank with 1:16 left in the second quarter that crystallized, for just a moment in time, the rarefied greatness he has brought to bear on this league since he arrived 16 years ago.
With that shot, Bryant became just the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points over the course of a career. He has lifted himself to scoring heights occupied only by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
More than his five championship rings, it is his scoring prowess – and the cold-blooded need for domination that has fueled it – that defines the brilliance of Bryant's career. It is also the more important argument in pushing Kobe's name higher atop the list of the all-time greats.