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 29, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2011 11:54 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

The biggest glaring fact behind this is that Jordan played in 1072 games.  As of right now, Kobe has played in 1057.  So according to this post, Kobe will have played in almost 1300 games before catching Jordan.  No comparison.  Add in the years Jordan was "retired", this wouldn't even be a conversation.  Kobe is a great player, but he is no Jordan and will never be.  No need to compare the two, because there is no comparison.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2011 11:47 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Jordan missd 3 seasons IN HIS PRIME to play baseball.  enough said. 

Since: Sep 12, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2011 10:23 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Thank you exactly the point.. No comparison.. And like MJ said in a conversation with ESPN.. If he played today with the way the refs call the game he would have had 80 points a game from the free throw line alone.. And lets be honest thats a major lost art in basketball at any level anymore..

Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:59 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Yeah this article is lame. I for one hated MJ back in the day because he was the best and I tend to hate anyone who is that good. :) However, MJ hands down is better than Kobe and Kobe is pretty damn good himself. MJ played better defense and could pass the ball. Plus, back in the day there was better compitition and the NBA wasn't so one-on-one'ish as it is now. For all those who say Kobe is better than MJ has issues and whatever. Obviously this is just my opinion and I'm sure many people disagree and that is their right.

Since: Mar 26, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:51 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Jordan played in college                  -  Kobe didn'tJordan took 2 years off in his prime  -  Kobe didn'tJordan 10 time scoring champ          -  Kobe 2

Since: May 22, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:42 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

first he didnt win 6 straight he won 3 then took off and came back to win 3 top of the scoring list I doubt it. Everybody syas Jordan was the greatest of all time because 6 rings and made his teammates better well how about 10 rings Bill Russell and yes he made his teammates better. People tend to say the greatest are the ones they saw play there are countless palyers that played and we never saw them play or only part of the time in the NBA Kobe never good until Shaq got there please JKobe is great because the guy works at it not cause Shaq. If Shaq had Kobes passion for the game he would be the best the game has seen he has size and ability but he is not driven like Bryant.If Shaq made penny better how come no ring there and only 1 with Wade. Ilke Kobe and like Jordan but its time to lay down the greatest of all time tags we throw around different eras for different guys

Since: Nov 15, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:28 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Jordan also had more miles on him.  Remember he took the time to go to college be a part of a Dean Smith team and win a ncaa championship.  Kobe will never be able to say that.  He has tried to knock off or surpass Jordan but he will always come up a little short.  Kobe is great don't get me wrong but he isn't Jordan. 

Since: Jan 6, 2011
Posted on: January 6, 2011 9:08 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Jordan was the best player in the history of the NBA. He made all his players around him better. It's hard to say this about Kobe, He has made his players better but not like Jordan did. We have to remember that Jordan won 6 titles in 6 straight season he played in. He won them in his prime of his career. If his father didn't die he would probably have more rings, and would had probably be 1st on the scoring list. Kobe was never good until he started playing with SHAQ. Shaq made Kobe Bryant the player he is today, and Shaq did the same to Penny and Wade. I think Kobe is one of the greatest players of all time but I think we will never ever see a plyer like Jordan again. A lot of people might say Lebron James but he needs Wade and Bosh to Win, Jordan made his teammates better and made them into Championship caliber players. Kobe is the man and I hope he plays until he is 40 at a high level but no matter how many rings he has or how many points he will never ever be compare to Jordan. No one will ever be compare to Jordan.

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2011 6:41 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list

Wow Casslakekillaz, you are an idiot. You do realize that he retired the first time following the murder of his father right?  The most important figure in his life. Judging by your dumbass name, youre probably some gangbanging wanna be and dont have anyone in your life worth living for. If by some slim chance you do have someone like that in your life, imagine losing them, then having to get up for work everyday and act like nothing is wrong. MJ was the greatest indivdual player, and greatest team player in basketball history. Names like Pippen, Kerr, Paxson, Grant etc. wouldnt be household names if not for MJ.

Since: May 1, 2009
Posted on: January 6, 2011 4:12 am

Bryant on pace to pass Jordan on NBA scoring list


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