Kobe Bryant

Before Kobe Bryant had even turned in his latest dominant performance, NBA Commissioner David Stern sought him out to offer a congratulatory hand shake for the extraordinary scoring milestone the Lakers star was about to surpass.

Stern assumed Bryant would score the 13 points he needed to become only the fifth player in NBA history to reach 30,000, and who wouldn’t?

Bryant had 17 points by halftime, finished with 29, and Los Angeles snapped a two-game skid with a 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

”He just congratulated me and told me I was one of the best competitors that he’s seen in this game and I really appreciated that,” Bryant said of his pregame exchange with Stern.

Now Bryant in is elite company. The only other players to score more than 30,000 are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

”It’s pretty awesome,” Bryant said. ”These are players I respect tremendously and obviously grew up idolizing and watching and learned a great deal from.”

– Reported by Brett Martel of the Associated Press