Shortly after the Dallas Mavericks dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers 102-98 on Friday night at American Airlines Center, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant shared a few kind words near midcourt.
After all, the two future Hall of Famers have a whole lot in common.
Nowitzki passed Elvin Hayes on Friday and became the NBA’s No. 8 all-time leading scorer. Bryant passed Michael Jordan on Dec. 14 in Minnesota to become the league’s No. 3 all-time leading scorer.
Bryant, who missed his third straight game Friday while dealing with two sore Achilles tendons, has 32.365 career points to 27,322 for Nowitzki.
As the two superstars shared a laugh, Nowitzki said of Bryant: “I told him I was going to catch him. It’s going to be tough.’’
And what did Bryant say to Nowitzki?
“He said it’s going to be hard to do,’’ Nowitzki said. “But I’m going to try.’’
Nowitzki passed Hayes less than a minute into the second half with one of his patented 20-footers. Coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged that “it’s not an accident’’ that the Mavs’ 17-year veteran has been able to put his stamp on the NBA’s historic map.
“A lot of blood, a lot of sweat, a lot of guts go into a career like this,’’ Carlisle said. “Kobe Bryant’s the same kind of guy.
“These guys are once-a-generation type players. We’re just very fortunate we’ve had a chance to watch it for an extended period of time.’’
Nowitzki received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd during the next stoppage of play after he put Hayes in his rearview mirror.
Lakers coach Byron Scott, who retired from the NBA as a player the year Nowitzki entered the league in 1998, has been able to marvel at the power forward’s greatness from afar.
“I watched him when he first came in the league,’’ Scott said. “I didn’t know he was going to be this good when I first saw him, but, man, he’s turned out to be an unbelievable basketball player.
“Longevity with this organization and the way he’s been able to play on a night-to-night to night basis, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s definitely one of the better players in this league.’’
Nowitzki is in the first of a three-year, $25 million contract. He’ll have to fade back to his glory days and do some serious scoring in order to catch Bryant.
Carlisle, meanwhile, was beside himself in trying to put Nowitzki’s career in its proper perspective.
“It’s hard to describe what we’re seeing in real time,’’ Carlisle said. “He’s making it look sort of easy.
“The amount of work that’s gone into him getting to this point in his career is something that none of us will ever really be able to fathom.’’
Guard Rajon Rondo, who won a world title in Boston with future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, knows what it’s like to play alongside greatness.
“It’s definitely an honor to play with a guy like Dirk,’’ said Rondo, who scored a season-high 21 points against the Lakers. “I played with a couple of Hall of Famers as well.
“But to see Dirk do it on another level, the way he puts in all the hard work on days off is fun to be around him.’’