Ever since stepping onto an NBA court, Bryant has relentlessly pursued Michael Jordan, an unfinished journey that has him four thousand points, three scoring titles and one championship ring shy of His Airness.
As Bryant continues to solidify his legacy among the greatest ever to play the game, he has kept the rest of the league a step behind him.
The NBA has seen an influx in talent, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin all challenging Bryant as the most dominant player in the league, but even at the age of 33, the Lakers guard hasn’t been caught.
Among all players in the league, no player is feared more than Bryant with the ball in his hands and the clock winding down.
During the Summer Olympics in 2008, he became the go-to player in crunch time and no one has supplanted him heading into the London games this summer.
Once again the leader in scoring average, Bryant has poured in more points than any other player this season even with a slew of injuries.
He has yet to miss a game this season despite severely injuring his wrist in the pre-season, the 6-foot-6 guard played through the pain, scoring at least 25 points in each of his first four contests.
The latest setback came during the All-Star Game, as Wade hammered Bryant in the face as he drove to the rim for a layup.
Bryant immediately shook off the injury, sank his two free throws as part of his 27 point effort to move past Jordan for the all-time record in the event.
The hit fractured his nasal cavity and gave him a concussion, forcing Bryant to wear a face mask.
A broken nose hasn’t deterred Bryant from carrying the offensive load in Los Angeles, as he is scoring 30.8 points per game since the injury.
Wednesday marked the 31st time Bryant has led the Lakers in scoring this season, as he totaled 30 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 106-101 loss to the Wizards.
Los Angeles fell to 10-7 when he scored 30 or more points this year.
It was just another scoring barrage for Bryant. In 39 games this season, he has been held to under 20 points just five times.
Throughout the contest, the sellout crowd in the Verizon Center serenaded Bryant with MVP chants as he scored 20 first half points.
Bryant is averaging 28.7 points, his highest scoring average in five years, along with 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game and has the Lakers within percentage points of the Clippers for the third seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers are still pursuing a point guard after their deal for Chris Paul was called off by league officials, the All-Star guard from New Orleans wound up in Los Angeles as the Clippers struck a deal with the Hornets just seven days later.
Without a superstar beside him in the back court, Bryant has continued his march towards the all-time scoring record, surpassing former teammate Shaquille O’Neal to score the fifth most points in league history.
Since his rookie season in 1996, Bryant has played in at least 65 games each year and 1,142 out of a possible 1,237 regular season games.
Bryant is closing in on Jordan through his longevity. Earlier in the year, he became the youngest player in league history to ever score 28,000 points.
His father, former NBA player Joe Bryant estimates his son will continue his career three-to-five more years, including this season, not only providing him more opportunities to match Jordan’s six championships, but surpass him and Chamberlain in total scoring.
Bryant is under contract with the Lakers through 2013-14.
Throughout his career, Bryant has maintained a singular focus, often shifting, but always in pursuit.
He entered the league as the sidekick to O’Neal, then became the biggest offensive threat in the league and following a trade for Pau Gasol, Bryant became the centerpiece for the latest Lakers dynasty.
A few of Jordan’s career marks are in his sights with a tenacious desire to step out of the legends shadow, Bryant has carved out a legacy all his own.