Kobe Bryant’s Latest Feat Touches NBA’s Past, Present and Future

MINNEAPOLIS — As part of his book-giving tradition, Phil Jackson in 2006 gave Kobe Bryant Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Jackson knew Bryant had read and appreciated Gladwell’s The Tipping Point—though even as Bryant’s leadership skills were evolving then, it was still hard to envision someone with as sharp an edge as Bryant ever being one of Gladwell’s “Connectors” who know and reach so many people that they change the world.

Bryant has indeed changed the world in a very, very individual way. It is his name alone that sits third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list as of Sunday night, with Michael Jordan (32,292 points) now behind.

Yet let’s not overlook just how connected Bryant has become. He is a link to basketball greatness in so many ways—far beyond just what he has played himself.

Bryant has reached out to so many to learn so much. He played so memorably in front of so many.

And he is, um, so old.

After getting Andrew Wiggins in early foul trouble, Bryant got the whistle on a drive against Zach LaVine and sank two Jordan-passing free throws in the second quarter Sunday night. When Bryant, 36, was a rookie in 1996, current rookies Wiggins and LaVine were one year old.

“I witnessed greatness,” Wiggins said later. “A living legend passing Michael Jordan, who everyone thinks is the best of all time.”

Bryant’s cagey pump fakes suckered Wiggins, who had to smile about it when he went to the bench with his second foul, and Bryant couldn’t help recalling his own over-exuberant early days when matched up against Jordan.

Citing Wiggins’ “baby face,” Bryant smiled afterward and said, “It was like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago. It was pretty cool.”

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders ...

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