All-time Lists

Can Kobe become the NBA’s All-time Leading Scorer?

Last night, Kobe passed Hakeem “The Dream” to become the 8th highest scorer of all-time. By the end of 2011, he will have passed Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone to assume 6th place.  For Kobe to capture and surpass the greatness of MJ (another topic for another day) at this point, he likely needs to accomplish several things. More rings (7) is a requirement. The all-time scoring title wouldn’t hurt. So, the question is, does Kobe have enough left in the tank to pass Cap for a record of 38,387 regular season career points that once seemed untouchable?

Here are the basic assumptions I have made:

* Kobe will play 34 more games this year

* Kobe will average 73 games per year over the remainder of his year. This is primarily based on the 72.9 games per year he has averaged over the first 14 years of his career (which includes 5 years where he played less than 70 games)

* Kobe will retire at age 38, after 21 seasons in the NBA

* Kobe’s scoring average will gradually decrease each year, but will remain over 20 by the time he retires (similar to Jordan – it is difficult to imagine Kobe remaining in the league when he can’t average at least 20 PPG)

These seem to be fairly conservative assumptions, and barring catastrophic injury (or missing all/most of any one season), it seems likely they will happen. What does this mean? The table below paints a likely scenario based on the assumptions above.

Year Age Years in NBA PPG Est. Games Played Annual Points Points short of Kareem
2010-11 32 15 24.9 34 847 10,568
2011-12 33 16 24.7 75 1,853 8,716
2012-13 34 17 24.3 75 1,823 6,893
2013-14 35 18 23.9 75 1,793 5,101
2014-15 36 19 23.3 72 1,678 3,423
2015-16 37 20 22.5 72 1,620 1,803
2016-17 38 21 21.5 69 1,484 320

So if you look at the table above, it would appear that I’ve projected Kobe to fall 320 points shy of Kareem all-time. So, case closed right? Kobe settles for 2nd place all time? Wrong. Anyone who has watched Kobe for hundreds of hours on end (like yours truly) knows that Kobe doesn’t settle for 2nd, especially when he’s close. What the numbers above demonstrate is that The Black Mamba will get very close, and once he does, he will go in for the kill. It is almost impossible to imagine Kobe retiring within 300 points of Kareem (even 500-1000 points short is unlikely). As Derek Fisher once stated, Kobe’s unstated goal is not to be the greatest today, but the greatest all-time.

So where does that leave us? Kobe will pass Kareem somewhere during his 21st season as a Laker (or possibly, if necessary, his 22nd). If he has any sense of history, he’ll do it with a baby skyhook.


21 Responses to “Can Kobe become the NBA’s All-time Leading Scorer?”

  1. gorgeous!

    Posted by nimble | February 6, 2011, 7:44 am
  2. wouldnt suprise me at at all if a loser like kobe stayed in the nba after he hits 40!

    hes so desperate to become the greatest, but even kobe realizes he will never even touch jordans left nut, much less be greater than jordan

    Posted by kobe is a | February 21, 2011, 2:32 pm
  3. “a loser like Kobe”… Only a small mind could produce words like that, or perhaps a sour grapes fan from an opposing team…or perhaps a nut…maybe like a pistacchio nut, green…with envy? Maybe.

    You can call Kobe lots of things, but “loser” is not one of them.

    When the day is done, when he has finished, he will be (and in fact is already) considered among the greatest players to have ever played. Who is #1 is simply a matter of opinion, which may differ from age to age and era to era. Try this: Wilt, 4029 points, 25.7 rebounds and 50.4 points per game — or Michael, with who knows how much hang time, and threepeating twice — or Russell, having more rings than fingers. I feel lucky to have watched them all, and delight in all of the rest of the great ones — and Kobe is definitely in there among the top of the top … notwithstanding what a green salty nut may say. No place for sour grapes here.

    Posted by longhwa | February 27, 2011, 9:16 pm
    • Longhwa — judging from that commenter’s handle, I’m guessing you’re not dealing with someone who is an objective basketball fan in this situation. Your comment is spot on however, at the end of his career, Kobe’s legacy will not be defined by whether or not he was great, but HOW great (e.g., top 5, top 3, or best ever?)

      Posted by Brown Mamba | February 28, 2011, 10:03 pm
  4. Nice article but a little hopeful. The problem is that Kobe plays a very physical position at the 2 where the defenders are strong, long, fast and agile. As Kobe ages, he’ll definitely have problems continuing the way he currently plays. Although MJ did continue to score well in his later years, Kobe’s jumper is still not up to MJ’s. Hence, he should average considerably less.

    A safer bet would be when he’s 35 onwards, he’ll play much less minutes and average approximately 20 points per game. With his current knee injury, I don’t really see him playing to his late 30s though.

    In the end, it’s all a guessing game and I’m a huge Kobe fan but just putting in my 2 cents =)

    Posted by Kobe-Shaq | March 8, 2011, 8:50 pm
    • you must be joking, c’mon, give this guy the credit he deserves…kobe’s jumper is not up to mj’s? There is absolutely no person who can take and make the shots kobe takes, even jordan does not come close…when we talk about taking insane and impossible shots kobe’s number 1 no doubt.

      Posted by kj | January 16, 2012, 4:13 pm
      • The thing is not to take an insane or impossible shot, but to actually make as many shots as possible.

        Kobe is less efficient scorer than MJ and he simply won’t maintain his current level when he turns 35.

        His TS% is already quite low (.536 – this is in fact his career low) and it won’t get better with age.

        Once it drops even further, no coach will agree for Kobe to average an insane 24 FGA.

        The funny thing is that Lebron only made 14 field goals less than Kobe so far this season, but he attempted a whooping 143 shots less!

        That just shows you how unefficient scorer Kobe is. Had hand-checking been allowed it is likely that Kobe would have been scoring with total efficiency under .500.

        Posted by doosiolek | February 8, 2012, 2:24 pm
  5. shut da fuck up you dum cock sucker. kobe hater!!!! hes the greatest ever and probably woulda beat Jordan every year in the league if they both played in their primes together so go fuck urself

    Posted by Los | March 18, 2011, 6:08 am
    • WOW – YOU have the audacity to call someone else dumb, but you can’t even spell the word, you have over a dozen mistakes in two attempts at sentences, and you have to resort to profanity because your vocabulary is so limited. Sorry, but criminal (I guess you think he was innocent of adultery and rape and Bonds didn’t take steroids) Kobe couldn’t carry Jordan’s jock.
      MJ is the greatest basketball player this world has ever seen. He refused to lose, a trait possessed by few in the era of high-paid NBA players afraid to get dunked on today. He won six championships against Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and other Hall-of-Famers.
      While most players suffer from the effects of achy bones and bruises as the years go on, Jordan simply adjusted his game and got better. He was the ultimate leader, the ultimate scorer, and the ultimate defender, period! Kobe cries like a baby and you know it.
      If Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought the NBA out of the doldrums of sports irrelevance, Michael Jordan took it straight to the forefront of American culture. Every aspiring basketball player of the 90s donned his signature jersey and shoes, and the Chicago Bulls became the iconic team of basketball.
      Kobe is not in the top five players in history and probably third on the Lakers, behind Kareen and Magic! You are dreaming! Most real fans know that at career end, Lebron will most likely be considered better than Kobe.

      Posted by Kcimsan | March 30, 2011, 2:39 pm
      • Okay lets get this all straight. 1, Kobe is already considered the greatest Laker ever now, that’s just your opinion, not fact. 2, Lebron will never be better than Kobe, Lebron doesn’t have a go to move he can put to mind and do twice, has no footwork, no actual “skill” in a specific category of his game. I relies so much on ahtleticism to get his points you wonder if he will even be good when he hits 33. Whether you deny it or not, Kobe Bryant will go down as the 2nd greatest to play the game. Lebron, if his 30’s dont slow him down as much as im anticipating will maybe reach top 10, but I just cant put someone in the top 5 that hasn’t mastered every part of the game whether the stats show it or not.

        Posted by Ryan | February 8, 2012, 12:10 pm
    • Always funny when someone screams about “Kobe-hate” then proceeds to say rude and vulgar things. As if saying ‘so go fuck urself’ isn’t hate lol hilarious.

      Posted by Adam | May 24, 2011, 7:11 pm
    • Once again you have proven how stupid and uneducated you are!
      Swearing is typical of an ignorant person like you. Criminal Kobe couldn’t carry Jordan’s jock. I guess you’re proud of how the Lakers made a complete mockery of themselves in the playoffs!

      Posted by KCIMSAN | November 30, 2011, 2:15 pm
  6. kobe still #1…

    Posted by ali | March 29, 2011, 8:34 pm
  7. Hmm…kcimsan…you seem like a bright guy, but to say things like Kobe isn’t top five in history and third on the lakers…idk it just seems silly…look at it this way. on paper he already passes magic, and already arguably one of the greatest players who ever lived. So saying that, by the time he will retire he will definitely be among the top five…and then there is lebron. if he can keep it up maybe, but in order to say he is better then Kobe as of now he will have to win a couple rings first…anyways I think this article is a good one…very enjoyable but there is one thing Kobe won’t average 24 points this year more like 27…just wait till this lose streak is over his number will jump to a higher 20s

    Posted by Geoffyylal | April 12, 2011, 8:09 am
  8. Sorry, but Kobe is highly overrated in my opinion. There are five guys in the playoffs who are either definitely or arguably better than him now. Definitely James, who Magic said last night is the best player on the planet, certainly Nowitzki and MVP Rose, and possibly Wade and Durant.

    I reveled in watching the Lakers get SWEPT! What a despicable showing; three guys ejected! Incredible. I feel sorry for the Phil Jackson, Magic, and some of the great Lakers of the past, but that was a horrific display by pathetic bush league players. I hope Kobe enjoyed watching his team mates make a mockery of the game.

    Posted by KCIMSAN | May 24, 2011, 11:40 am
  9. Historically speaking, Kobe is unlikely to play past age 35 AND still score at 20+ PPG.

    Your projections seem off as only two other guards past age 35 have scored more than 1300 points. That would be Havlicek and Reggie Miller.

    Given the history, the recent injuries, his already low FG%, it is very unlikely that Bryant will pass Kareem.

    Bryant may pass Jordan to get to #3, but I doubt he gets past Malone.

    Kareem is out.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | December 1, 2011, 11:40 pm
  10. “For Kobe to capture and surpass the greatness of MJ (another topic for another day) at this point, he likely needs to accomplish several things. More rings (7) is a requirement.”

    Ah yes, we’re still measuring individual play by using total team accomplishments. Beautiful.

    Posted by The Realist #2 | February 8, 2012, 12:33 pm
  11. you forgot playoff points, playoff point including he will do it in 6 years

    Posted by tommy | March 11, 2012, 7:29 am
    • I think he’s got more of a chance then people give him credit for. And yes rings are team accomplishment, but the rings added onto your resume are a need if you wanna be put in the conversation of GOAT.

      Posted by J | March 11, 2012, 12:27 pm
  12. How far do you think Kobe will go in order to emulate Jordan? After he retires, will we see him starring alongside a CGI Bugs Bunny in a wacky family-friendly sci-fi sports comedy?

    Posted by bub | April 22, 2012, 8:06 pm

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