Kobe Bryant: Chasing Milestones

Feb 24, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) shoots in the fourth quarter against Dallas Mavericks forward Elton brand (42) at the American Airlines Center. The Lakers beat the Mavs 103-99. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the history of the National Basketball Association, very few players have earned the luxury of being recognized simply by their first name. You have guys like Michael, Larry, Magic, and Kareem. If those names are brought up during a basketball themed conversation, one is expected to know exactly who is being referred to. I purposefully left the fifth name out due to the fact that he is still an active NBA player. If you’re sitting there asking yourself, “Who is he talking about?,” then you need to reassess yourself as a basketball fan. The fifth name belongs to surefire Hall of Famer and 5-time NBA champion, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Whether it was kids at school yelling, “Kobe,” as they shot a ball of paper into the trash can or Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers beating my Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, (we got him in 2008 though, just a reminder…). I can also admit that I even incorporated Kobe’s grip on the basketball when he shoots the ball into my own shot. Bottom line is, even though he plays for my Celtics’ biggest rival, I have the utmost respect for him and I’m not so naive to believe he isn’t one of the greatest to ever do it.

Yesterday, February 24th, Kobe became just the fifth player in NBA history to surpass the 31,000 point mark for their career. He’s done so over a 16 and a half year career where he has posted averages of 25.5 PPG on 45% from the field, 34% from beyond the arc, and 84% from the charity stripe. A career that has seen him fail to hit the 1,000 point mark in a single season just twice. In Kobe’s defense, one of those two seasons was his rookie year and the other he fell short by just 4 points. No worries though, he has made up for those two sub-1,000 point seasons by surpassing the 2,000 point mark 7 times throughout his years in the Association.

At the ripe age of 34, nobody really knows for sure when Kobe will step away from the game. He has one year remaining on his current contract that sees him through to the end of next season. A large amount of fans believe that it’s more than likely he will announce his retirement when the 2013-14 campaign comes to a close. However, despite that being a sensible time to hang it up, Kobe will only be 35 at that point. I understand that he has virtually played the last 5-plus at less than 100% when it comes to his health but that hasn’t stopped him from remaining at the top of the NBA ladder. Another factor to consider is whether or not the Lakers would be willing to resign him, even if it were just for a year or so. Although I personally believe that it’s ridiculous to even think about the possibility of the Lakers’ brass turning Kobe away, there are people out there that believe it could happen. If the Lakers chose not to resign him, then that would probably be the final straw because I can’t even imagine Bryant putting on a different uniform. This tweet is focused on the loss of Dr. Jerry Buss, but also pay attention to his first statement, “It’s an honor to put the Golden Armor on everyday.”

That being said, I don’t think that even Kobe could imagine taking the floor in any color other than purple and gold. Finally, I remember Kobe saying, “I will keep playing in the NBA as long as I continue to dominate.” This speaks to his competitive nature and the want and desire to perform at a very high level. On Ahmad Rashad’s one on one interview with Michael Jordan, Michael was quoted as saying, “He’s [Kobe] cursed just like me.” The curse obviously being the love and passion that both have for the game of basketball. Oh yeah, and Kobe? I have news for you man, you are dominating right now and I see no signs of you slowing down just yet.

Retirement concerns aside, I’ve been pondering something that warrants the same amount of thought. Can Kobe Bryant overthrow the throne that is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s All-Time Scoring record? I’ve decided to look into it and figure out what it would take for Kobe to achieve such an immaculate accomplishment. As of February 25th, the All-Time Scoring list looks like this:

November 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Former pro basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends a ceremony unveiling the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar statue at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387
2. Karl Malone: 36,928
3. Michael Jordan: 32,292
4. Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419
5. Kobe Bryant: 31,027

There is no doubt in my mind that Kobe will pass Chamberlain by the end of this season and, barring any injuries, will pass Jordan for third all-time before his contract is up at next season’s end. Those are the near guarantees, but what about going after Malone and Abdul-Jabbar? If Bryant were to try to break the record, he would have to continue to play obviously. What if the Lakers weren’t willing to resign him? Would he play for another franchise to try to get the record? Who knows?

Let’s assume that Kobe resigned with a team, whether it be the Lakers of another franchise, what would it take for Bryant to become the All-time leading scorer? Currently, Kobe is trailing KAJ by 7,360 points. After crunching a few numbers, the most realistic way for Kobe to go after the record would be to do it over the next four seasons. That would break down those 7,360 points into 1,840 points per season. Assuming Kobe were to play 75 games each year, he would have to average 24.5 PPG for the next four seasons if he wants to break the record. That would make him 39 years old when it was all said and done. Now that seems like a bit much but it’s completely doable for a player of Kobe Bryant’s caliber. As I said before, Kobe is showing no signs of slowing down and I can imagine he would average more than 24 PPG over the next couple of seasons. If that’s the case, then he would have a lighter work load going into his last one or two years. As age hits him it will effect his ability to get to the rim and finish at the basket. However, there are three things that Kobe will never lose: his footwork, his jump shot, and his motivation to be the best.

These numbers aren’t set in stone, it is just a plan of attack to get to the top of the list. I have all the faith in the world that Kobe will score more than 2,000 points next year. I also believe that he has the ability to play more than 75 games in the next couple of seasons. In essence, he might not need four more years, it could take him three. There is no way to be certain but I sincerely believe that Kobe Bryant has a legitimate shot at passing KAJ. As of right now, there are only two active players in the NBA that have good chances at topping the list. Kobe Bryant is the first and the second is Kevin Durant.

Kobe Bean Bryant has had the type of career little kids dream about as they grow up. He is nothing short of amazing to watch and if you’re a student of the game, you have to watch Kobe play. I hold him very highly and I know that he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever step foot on an NBA court. This may or may not come to a shock to my readers, but I also truly believe that he is the closest thing to Michael Jordan that we will ever see. Enough of this Lebron/MJ comparison because that’s not even close. Michael has him by a long shot and they’re two different kinds of players. You want someone to compare LBJ to? Ok, Magic Johnson is your guy. When we’re talking about the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant is the only player who should be compared to him.