Now that 5-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant has passed retired future Hall of Fame center, and former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal for the 5th spot on the NBA’s All-time scoring list, we wonder how much further Bryant can go. Can Bryant hope to pass the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-time) Michael Jordan?
An invigorated Bryant is on a scoring tear this season, putting up 29.3 points per game. Despite his nagging injuries, Bryant has not indicated that they are holding him back, much. Yet, before the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers took the court on Monday night, Bryant said something that reminded me how close we are to the end of the magnificent career of Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant.
When asked about how special it is to play in front of his hometown crowd of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bryant admitted that he’s grown to love putting on a show there. But then, he pointed to the end of his own career, saying that he can count the times he will play here in the future “on one hand.”
A lot of good writers have looked at Bryant’s physique and workout regimen and assumed he would be like Karl Malone, John Stockton or Robert Parish and play into his early 40’s. But here, Bryant says that he will not even make it to 40. At 33 years of age, Bryant’s own words suggest that he will retire within six years, or by the time he is 39.
If Bryant is only planning on another six years, or less in the NBA, can Bryant surpass Michael Jordan as the 3rd leading scorer in NBA history?
There is good news and bad news. For Jordan, it’s been a short ride near the top. He retired 2nd in scoring. Karl Malone then passed him. Soon Kobe Bryant too, could pass him. Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett are climbing as well, but Jordan should be watching the young scoring sensation Kevin Durant. For Bryant, the air will be getting thin up there with only a few more productive seasons separating Kobe from former teammate Karl Malone (2nd) and Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st).
Bryant has scored 733 points in the first 25 games of this season. With 41 games to go (in this abbreviated 66 game season), Bryant will score probably somewhere between 1,201 and 1,107 more points this season, depending on whether or not you think he can keep up his scoring clip of just under 30 points per game.
After this shortened season, Bryant could catch Jordan after next season if Kobe scored at a career-high pace (like he did in ’06), but of course he won’t. He will be 34. It will probably take Bryant this season and two more. But, with good health and good fortune it seems that nothing short of Jordan coming back from retirement again, can stop Bryant from passing MJ on the NBA’s All-time scoring list. Then again, health and fortune are hard to come by late in the career of NBA players.
Rob S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition living in Los Angeles. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. De France has played, coached, and officiated competitive high school basketball in California for many years. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.