Before Kobe Bryant had even turned in his latest dominant performance, NBA commissioner David Stern sought him out to offer a congratulatory...

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NEW ORLEANS — Before Kobe Bryant had even turned in his latest dominant performance, NBA commissioner David Stern sought him out to offer a congratulatory handshake 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.

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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.”

When Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was asked before tipoff about Bryant’s impending milestone, the coach joked, “That just means he is old.”

In fact, at 34, Bryant is younger than the other four were when they hit the mark, but Bryant also turned pro at 18, and is in his 17th season.

“Honestly, I don’t know why I’m still working as hard as I am after 17 years,” Bryant said. “I enjoy what I do. I think that’s the thing that I’m most proud of: every year, every day working hard at it. It’s a lot of years, a lot of work.”


• Former Cougars star Klay Thompson scored 19 of his 27 points in the third quarter to help the Golden State Warriors pull away to beat the host Detroit Pistons 104-97. Former Eastern Washington star Rodney Stuckey had 17 points for Detroit.

Paul George scored 22 points and George Hill added 18 to help the host Indiana Pacers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 99-92. Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 points.

Jamal Crawford from Rainier Beach High School had 20 points to help lift the host Los Angeles Clippers to their fourth straight victory, 112-90 over the Dallas Mavericks.

• Stern said his $250,000 fine of the San Antonio Spurs was justified because the club went beyond what league owners agreed was a reasonable approach to resting healthy players. Stern said coaches should have the authority to rest players at the end of the season, but that teams should not rest four starters little more than a month into it, and the team made matters worse by not notifying the league beforehand.

• Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton could miss two weeks because of a foot injury.

• Lakers guard Steve Blake underwent surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle is expected to be out six to eight weeks.

• Brooklyn Nets forward Gerald Wallace was fined $5,000 by the NBA for flopping.

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