LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant's 40-point-plus scoring streak ended Tuesday night near the half-court line, behind a smile that grew as the final seconds fell in the Los Angeles Lakers' 109-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. As all of the Staples Center crowd begged him to shoot and his teammates stood, Bryant chose not to shoot.
He finished with 32 points.
So he left behind the pursuit of Wilt Chamberlain, the scoring mark that at times chased him harder than he chased it.
Bryant was unable to score 40 points for the first time in 10 games, a run of nightly, aggressive offense that took him to Michael Jordan but not past him and to within five games of Chamberlain. He had scored 35 points in 13 consecutive games. Only Chamberlain had been better.
"The streak is a streak," he said afterward. "It's not going to win us any championships. But to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys is an honor."
It rekindled memories of Chamberlain of four decades earlier, and it revived comparisons to Jordan. It grew out over four weeks of basketball, taking the Lakers from out of the playoffs to in them, from disappointments to contenders. Starting with the night in Phoenix on Jan. 29, when Bryant dropped 40 points on the Suns, the Lakers won 12 of 14 games.
He said he was almost glad his scoring streak was over "because it started to take the focus away from how we were playing as a team."