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Lakers great Jerry West expresses admiration for Kobe Bryant, who is approaching scoring milestone

January 30, 2010 |  3:21 pm

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The irony certainly isn't lost on Lakers great Jerry West.

As the Lakers' general manager, he cast his eyes on the young Kobe Bryant out of Lower Merion High School and brought the 17-year-old in 1996 for a pre-draft workout. The high skill level and obsessively compulsive work ethic Bryant immediately displayed was good enough for West, who then traded Vlade Divac on July 11, 1996, to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to acquire Bryant, the team's 13th pick.

Nearly 13-and-a-half years have passed and now Bryant is only 48 points shy of surpassing West as the Lakers' franchise all-time leading scorer (25,192) and moving into 14th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. After making an appearance Friday at the Santa Monica Pier to promote the upcoming Northern Trust Open as the tournament's executive director, West said he "was very happy" for Bryant nearing the milestone. 

As far as where Bryant will ultimately finish on the league's scoring list? Though West pointed out that injuries make it somewhat unpredictable, Bryant has mostly played through them his whole career (including this season). After equating that variable and Bryant's career jumpstart in turning pro at 18, West estimated that Bryant would finish in the 30,000-point range.

If West's assessment proves correct, it means that Bryant could be in close contention with Shaquille O'Neal, who is currently fifth on the list with 28,103 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) are the only players to score at least 30,000 points, a milestone West expects Bryant will at least attempt to pursue in years to come.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com


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