Blog Entry

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2011 5:10 pm

It’s no guarantee that Kobe Bryant will match or pass Michael Jordan’s six rings, but he should pass Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart with kobe-bryant-michael-jordan.jpgrelative ease. 

Posted by Ben Golliver.

Even at 32 years old, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has plenty of NBA miles ahead of him. This week, he moved into the top 10 on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart, and if he continues scoring at his current rate through the rest of the season, barring injury, he will move into the No. 6 position on the list, passing Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Oscar Robertson in the process.

But Bryant surely won't be content with sixth place. Just like he is chasing Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles, he’s also in hot pursuit of Jordan’s NBA career scoring tally, which at 32,292 points puts MJ in third place all-time, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928).

So what does Kobe need to do to pass Jordan? Let’s take a look.

Since turning 30, Bryant has fallen off his career-high scoring numbers posted in his late-twenties, but he’s still scoring at an exceptional rate. Over the last 2.5 seasons, Bryant is averaging 26.6 points per game, although his number has slipped to 25.2 points so far this season. Even given that slippage, the rate is more than enough for Bryant to reach Jordan in the relatively short-term.

The difference between Jordan's career total and Bryant's total through Tuesday is 5,621 points. That equates to 223 games at his current scoring average of 25.2 points. With 47 games left this season, assuming Bryant plays all of them, Bryant would need to maintain this season’s scoring pace for 176 games, or 2.15 full seasons, after this year. In other words, assuming no further slippage and that Bryant averages 25.2 points for the duration, Bryant would pass Jordan early in the 2013-2014 season.  That season happens to be the last of Bryant’s current contract, when he is scheduled to make $30.5 million dollars at age 35.

That should be considered a best-case scenario, and not particularly likely because scorers universally fall off as they progress through their thirties. For the sake of argument, let’s say Bryant finishes this season scoring 25.2 points, but is only able to average 20 points per game from there on out. It would take Bryant 222 games, equal to 2.7 full seasons, averaging 20 points per game, starting with next season, to reach Jordan’s career mark. In other words, Bryant would still be on pace to pass Jordan in 2013-2014, it would just happen in the spring rather than the fall.

Even if Bryant were to fall off dramatically, to, say, 16 points per game following this season, it would still only take Bryant 277 games, or 3.3 seasons, to pass Jordan. In other words, even with a very conservative estimate, Bryant would pass Jordan in 2014-2015, at age 36. Jordan played until he was 39, in a diminished capacity, and he was still able to average 20 points per game his final season. Surely, by comparison, Bryant will be able to average 16+ at age 36, even with the extra miles caused by his prep-to-pro jump and no mid-career sojourns to play minor league baseball.

What about the impact of health? Through 14 full seasons and the start of this season, Bryant has played in an amazing 91.7% of Los Angeles’s regular season games. At his current scoring rate, he would still pass Jordan in 2013-2014 even if he missed his average of roughly 8 games a season. At 20.0 points per game, missing 8 games a season, he would pass Jordan at the very end of the 2013-2014 season. Playing 75 games per year and scoring 16 points per game, he would pass Jordan in late 2014-2015.

Given the length of his contract, his excellent health and his scoring output to this point, Bryant will almost certainly end his career in third place on the all-time scoring list, at least, and could challenge Jabbar and Malone should he continue playing into his late-30s.  But third place would be good enough to top Jordan, and surely that’s where Bryant wants to be. 

For a more detailed and refined projection of Bryant's career scoring progress, check out this 2009 post from Basketball Prospectus.


Since: Jan 12, 2012
Posted on: October 18, 2012 10:39 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Please dont bring up Assists... When comparing players Assists are not valid since it takes two players to complete an asists.  Assists are not an individual merrit.  So Lebron stop thinking you are a point guard, stop playing out of position and develop an shot with your back to the basket.  Then and only then will you become the beast everyone prematurely puts you out to be.

Since: Jan 12, 2012
Posted on: October 18, 2012 10:28 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Well Said Big, but any second thoughts on that 6th ring....LOL.  Superman Returns.... Stay Tunned.

Since: Jan 12, 2012
Posted on: October 18, 2012 10:24 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

The name calling only discredits your comments and most importantly exposes your ignorance.  Jordan was a ball hog and protected by the referees in that era because I admit noone had seen a player like him before and the league was banking off him.  All your assumptions of who I am are only that, assumptions. If you knew who I was you would have a totally different opinion of my comments and most of all would bow down and shake in your pans for an autograph.  CHUMP!!!!

Since: Jan 12, 2012
Posted on: October 18, 2012 10:19 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Yes weak... all those players you mentioned were at the end of their careers.  Denfense... there is no defense in basketball, there is better offense.  Defense is over rated in the NBA.  Until I stop hearing Lebron will get hes, Kobe will get hes, wade will get hes, etc, I dont want to hear about defense.  I guess good defense is when you defend a low caliber player.

Since: Jan 12, 2012
Posted on: January 12, 2012 11:03 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Before insulting anyone with name calling, walk to a mirror and tell me what you see.  You mentioned Defense, did it ever occur to you that Jordan was playing agains bums.  Kobe has always played against Elite players.  Once Kobe surpasses Jordan in scoring total in the 2013-2014 season, the talk should be over.  Uless you want to compare farts.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2011 8:09 pm

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

When Kobe had no titles it was "look at the titles baby?" Uhm. No it wasn't. 
Look at career stats? Sorry, pal wrong again. 
It's look at the play. Kobe's 25 ppg doesn't compare to MJ's?
Defense try again?
What are you trying to prove how ignorant you are. Michale was the greatest defnensive 2-guard of all time. 
Look. You need to take off those gold and purple glassses. Kobe isn't even close to Jordan and he never will be. if he plays 200 extra games to get a few more points that doesn't mean he's better. It just means that he took 200 extra games to get the same number of points. 

Since: Aug 26, 2008
Posted on: January 12, 2011 4:43 pm

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

jordan hand checks just as much as kobe pushes off on every jumper he takes

Since: Aug 29, 2008
Posted on: January 7, 2011 11:19 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

The game was so different in the 80's and 90's and yes I am old enough to remember.  As a matter of fact I am old enough to remember every time Jordan got the ball he hand checked the defender and was able to get his fade away.  Watch some film if you don't remember or don't know what a hand check is.  He would be fouled out in the first quarter in today's game with all the hand checks.  Everybody thought Jordan could fly because the game was not played as high above the rim as it is now, everybody's flying now even Nate Robinson.  The evolution of the game is that now the players are more athletic than they have ever been.  The game is played at a faster pace and the players are stronger and more physical.  Throughout history there has always been specimens and great athletes there is just more to choose from now and the talent is as high as it has ever been.  Kobe and MJ should stop being compared.  It is like when people compare Shaq to Wilt, or Reggie Miller to Larry Bird.  Every player has their own unique set of skills and the only relevant point here is that Kobe is still playing and MJ is not.  Pretty soon MJ's legacy will be furthermore tarnished because he can't figure out how to make the Bobcats successful because he doesn't understand today's game.  If they bring back the hand check then the Bobcats may win a championship.  Good luck MJ.  

Since: Dec 14, 2006
Posted on: January 7, 2011 10:46 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

You are an absolute moron. the areas Kobe will never be compared with mike starts with defense...find me an article. Look at the career numbers between the two, side by side, and you'll see a clear difference in dominance from a statistical standpoint. Llook at the era they play in; jordan played against good guards and small forwards kobe plays against a bunch of and1 era loosers. Team players?-they are very comprable in that erea. You have to be either too young and never really saw mike play or just a biased idiot. Kobe has already exceeded miike in playoff eliminations. Thats what you dont get, once mike got there he wasnt ever going to lose unless he beat himself, which didnt happen after a certain age. Kobe has a fraction of that drive he's never going to be able to live down the loses in the playoffs when idiots want to compare him to mike. you're an absolute moron.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:31 pm

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

It's not really accurate to say that Jordan played "until 39." He retired twice in his thirties. If Kobe catches Jordan, it would only be because he played a lot more games than. 
I also don't think that Kobe will be playing 3-4 more years but it's possible. Even if he does pass Jordan with total points, his career scoring average would be so far below MJ's though that it would be a huge stretch to make it out that he's on the same level. 

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