Scoring the basketball is an art form.
Kobe Bryant may be the greatest ever at attacking the basket and putting the ball in the hoop. Entering Tuesday night's contest against the Denver Nuggets, Bryant has 32,534 points for his career, which ranks third all-time. That number is astronomical. Putting the ball through the hoop takes talent, and Bryant could make his case for scoring the basketball against any player to ever play the game, save for perhaps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who still sits 5,853 points ahead of the 37-year-old Bryant.
Incidentally, Abdul-Jabbar has worked with HBO Sports and Mandalay Sports Media on a 90-minute documentary that profiles the 68-year-old on his journey from New York to becoming the greatest scorer in NBA history. Kareem: Minority of One will premiere on HBO on Tuesday night at 10 pm Eastern Time and Pacific Time, just about the time the Laker game ends on the West Coast.
Lakers coach Byron Scott joined former Lakers Earvin "Magic" Johnson, James Worthy, Norm Nixon, Mitch Kupchak and AC Green to lend support to Abdul-Jabbar. Lakers president and owner Jeanie Buss also attended, as did longtime trainer Gary Vitti. Former coach Pat Riley and Laker great Jerry West also appear in the film.
On Tuesday morning, NBCLA.com asked Scott to compare one 20-year NBA star in Abdul-Jabbar to another in Bryant, and the coach obliged.
"Both of them are about as mentally tough as they come, both competitors big time," Scott said thoughtfully. "As much as people don't think of Kareem in the sense of the word of being a very 'competitive' guy, he was one of the most competitive guys I've seen."
Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA titles to go along with a trio of NCAA basketball titles, though he is somehow always overlooked as the greatest basketball player of all time. Taking in the breath of his career from a basketball prodigy in New York to the man who achieved sustained glory in LA, one would have a tough time arguing against the six-time NBA MVP and 19-time NBA All-Star. Also, Abdul-Jabbar has scored more points than anyone, and that record may truthfully never be matched.
Scott continued comparing Bryant with Abdul-Jabbar, "They got a lot of similarities in the way that they approach the game, how serious they took it. They're also very hard on themselves at times, and they kind of took all the criticism to fuel their fire. I see that in both of those guys."
Just recently, Bryant expressed serious frustrations with his own performance following Sunday's defeat to the Dallas Mavericks. In the aftermath, Bryant became highly self-critical and visibly angry with himself. Scott decided to give his superstar a day off practice to calm down, but Bryant does have a tendency to play well when he's angry.
Abdul-Jabbar did that, too. Most famously, Abdul-Jabbar looked his age in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals, which is famously referred to the "Memorial Day Massacre." The Boston Celtics beat the Lakers by 34 points with Abdul-Jabbar only contributing 12 points and three rebounds.
The documentary profiled Abdul-Jabbar's reaction to the game and how he welcomed the criticism as motivation and worked tirelessly in the days leading up to Game 2. In Game 2, Abdul-Jabbar finished with 30 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and three block shots to win a crucial game in Boston. Abdul-Jabbar, who was 38 years old at the time, would win the NBA Finals MVP as LA won the series in six games.
On Tuesday, the Lakers hope that their current 37-year-old superstar can take a scene out of Abdul-Jabbar's documentary and use his internal anger and disappointment to fire up a timeless scoring performance that gives LA its first win of the 2015-16 NBA season.
Otherwise, the Lakers will fall to 0-4 with a five-game road trip starting on Friday in Brooklyn.
"After my father died in 2005, I realized how little I knew about his life, and I didn't want my kids to be in the dark about my life. I also did not want to be remembered as someone who was not willing or able to communicate." – Abdul-Jabbar speaking about why he made the documentary at its LA Premier.
"I knew when it was time to go when my stats started to decline and I realized that I couldn't live up to the standards I had set for myself. It's easy to think that you're going to play at a certain level and have it be consistent, but once you start to falter, I thought it was time to go. I wanted people to remember me at my best." – Abdul Jabbar talking retirement and Kobe Bryant on The Rich Eisen Show.