NEW YORK — From the jawing with Spike Lee and Chris Rock to the postgame news conference with his daughters on his lap, Kobe Bryant enjoyed every minute of his return to Madison Square Garden.
Making history made it even better.
Bryant scored 39 points, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the New York Knicks 95-90 Sunday.
Bryant added 11 rebounds and eight assists in his first game at the Garden in nearly two years. His 3-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter allowed him to reach the milestone at 29 years, 122 days.
"I always like playing here, period," Bryant said. "Last year I didn't have an opportunity to play and I was upset about it. This is my favorite arena to play in so I'm just happy and relieved that I was able to play tonight."
Before Bryant, who was suspended last year when the Lakers came to New York, only Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29, 326) had gotten there before turning 30.
Bryant's last basket came in the final minute after the Knicks had trimmed a 25-point deficit to one. The victory capped a 3-1 road trip for the Lakers, who headed home to host Phoenix on Tuesday.
Jamal Crawford scored 31 points for the Knicks, who were again without Stephon Marbury and have lost two straight and eight of 10. David Lee had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Nate Robinson scored 16 points.
Despite a sometimes sloppy effort that included no assists in the second quarter, the Knicks were spared the usual wrath of their fans, who instead seemed content to cheer Bryant and Andrew Bynum, a New Jersey product.
In fact, fans cheered when Bryant had to get off the bench to return to the game early in the fourth quarter after the Knicks closed within single digits. Sasha Vujacic then made a 3-pointer and Jordan Farmar knocked down a jumper, seemingly putting Los Angeles back in control at 80-68 with 9:45 to play.
Bryant became the 31st player with 20,000 points. Though Bryant told reporters Saturday that the Knicks were one of the four teams he would have accepted a trade to, both coaches downplayed New York's chances. Jackson said there were no serious talks before the season, and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas added, "I never sincerely thought that the Lakers would trade him."