Kobe Bryant close to passing Michael Jordan on NBA all-time scoring list

Kobe Bryant is 218 points away from passing Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time list

Despite denying it, Kobe Bryant considers it highly important to pass Michael Jordan's career scoring mark. So says one of Bryant's closest ex-teammates.

Bryant is only 218 points from passing Jordan for third on the NBA all-time list after scoring 27 on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

"I think that he'll probably just say that it's just another milestone, but it's obvious that Jordan was somebody that Kobe idolized and looked up to," said Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw, who won three championships with the Lakers while helping mentor a barely 20-something Bryant.

"I think that would be one of the things that's right up there, when you can kind of get at the same level or surpass somebody of that magnitude and somebody that you patterned your game after. Whether he says it or not, I personally feel that it would be one of his greatest accomplishments."

Bryant said it was not a focus for him, recently denying his shot volume was higher than usual because he was trying to pass Jordan.

"There's always something [to criticize], especially with me," he said, the equivalent of a verbal eye roll.

Bryant, 36, still has a long way to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points) or even Karl Malone (36,928).

Shaw had more to say about Bryant and Jordan, calling the latter the better of the two, with a caveat.

"I think [Jordan]'s the best player to ever play the game and the best player at the [shooting] guard position," Shaw said. "I think it's 1 and 1A or 1A and 1B — I think Kobe's the next [shooting] guard right behind him. And I don't think there's very much difference between the two.

"Obviously Michael has six championships, and without what Michael did, Kobe wouldn't have anything to shoot for. So that's why I put [Jordan] ahead of him in regards to that."

Shaw's system

Shaw is more comfortable now than a year ago as he tries to guide the Nuggets through the ultra-challenging Western Conference.

It's become easier to organize practices in his second season as Denver's coach, he says. He knows how to better budget his time on the job in general. The Nuggets started 2-7 but won a fourth consecutive game by beating the Lakers in overtime, 101-94.

"We're starting to get it, especially on the defensive end," Shaw said. "The guys are buying it, we're getting results that we're looking for. So now it's starting to be fun again."

Lakers Coach Byron Scott hadn't been part of the franchise since retiring as an NBA player in 1997. Shaw had some advice for him, more than well-versed in what happened with the Lakers in the 2000s.

"I know it's a tough situation for him. He was a champion, he has championship expectations," said Shaw, part of two title-winning teams as a Lakers assistant coach from 2005 to 2011. "Nothing happens overnight. You have to lay the foundation, and you also have to be healthy and you have to be lucky. I think that he'll continue to demand excellence out of his team."

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times