Kobe Bryant is used to hearing the jeers in his hometown.
And while the normal scattering was still raining down on him at times, there was also a noticeable amount of cheers. Especially around the 5:08 mark, when Bryant hit a 23-foot jumper to surpass Shaquille O’Neal for No. 5 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Bryant, the pride of Lower Merion High School, admitted that it was extra special to achieve the milestone here.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Bryant said postgame, after holding court with Philly basketball icon, Sonny Hill. “I am very thankful for it.”
O’Neal, who won three championships with Bryant in Los Angeles, tweeted his own congratulations, posting: “Congrats to Kobe for being the greatest laker ever thanks for making us the greatest laker one two punch ever and congrats on passin me up 2.”
“I appreciate it and I’m sure Shaq and I will connect at some point,” Bryant said.
Bryant scored 28 points Monday night against the Sixers and now sits at 28,601 for his career. He trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and another Philadelphia native, Overbrook’s Wilt Chamberlain.
“To say it’s an honor would be an understatement,” Bryant said. “That’s a lot of basketball.”
But Bryant was quick to point out that moving up the list isn’t his primary goal.
“I just want No. 6. I’m not asking too much, just give me a sixth ring, dammit,” Bryant quipped.
While opinions in Philadelphia sway about Bryant — mostly on the negative side — the Lakers star always has kind words for his hometown. After Monday night’s disappointing 95-90 loss to the Sixers, which was the franchise’s first home win over L.A. since March 9, 2007, Bryant also had kind words for the city’s basketball team.
“They look good to me,” he said. “They got so many offensive weapons, that’s the key with this team. There’s a lot of guys that you have to focus on, a lot of guys that can get hot, that can go through stretches of getting big baskets.”
Bryant was having his way with the Sixers in the first half, blowing through double teams and abusing any defender — Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, you name it — they threw at him. Then, the Sixers made some halftime adjustments and turned Bryant into more of a facilitator for his struggling teammates. He shot just 2-of-12 from the field for four points in the second half after going 8-of-14 for 24 in the first half.
“They ran traps out past half court,” Bryant said. “We tried to space the floor, make plays, get other guys involved. We did it in stretches.”
“Our guys scrambled, they were aggressive,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “Dre [Andre Iguodala] was spectacular. You have to be a strong-willed player to play against Kobe Bryant. Those kind of players break your spirit.”
It certainly didn’t break the Sixers’ spirit. As Iguodala clamped down on Bryant and Lou Williams heated up — he scored 14 of his team-high 24 in the fourth quarter, including 12 in a less-than-four minute stretch — the Sixers faithful rained down the famous “Beat LA” chant. Wiliams iced it by nailing two free throws with 10.1 seconds left.
“Great win for us,” Collins said. “To hear the fans out there chanting, ‘Beat LA,’ it took me back to 1980 when I was here as a player, and it was pretty nice.”
Beating the Lakers is always going to get people talking, get the juices flowing — and the Sixers (18-7) are off to their best start since 2000-01 when they advanced to the NBA Finals. But, as Bryant casually reminded us, beating this Lakers team isn’t the same badge of honor it once was.
“You can’t measure against us right now, that’s for damn sure,” Bryant said. “We’re 3-8 on the road … We’re not playing good basketball right now.”