Examining Kobe Bryant's Chances of Breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Points Record

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

No active player has scored more points than Kobe Bryant, and nor have any even come within 5,000 points of doing so.

When it comes to appreciating the finest NBA talent in recent history, there's really no fact or figure that speaks louder than that. But when it comes to recognizing the greatest scorers of all-time, Bryant has a ways to go—according to the numbers anyway.

He's currently 8,903 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who holds the record for most career points with 38,387 of them.

Does Bryant have another 9,000 points in him?

He'd almost certainly catch up to Abdul-Jabbar if he played for long enough—and that's a big "if." Kobe has at least entertained the possibility of retiring after the next two seasons, calling it quits while still irrefutably relevant.

In that event, no, Bryant won't snag the top spot. If he sticks around for a bit longer, however, it's a very real possibility.

If we assumed that Bryant averaged 25 points a game and 75 games a season, it would take him five seasons to get there. There's a perfectly reasonable chance that he'll opt to play another three seasons when his contract expires, making him 38 when he retires.

Of course, you might argue that it's unlikely Bryant will score at such a high rate once he turns 36 or 37, and no one could blame you. 

That's where things start to get a bit tricky. If Kobe can continue scoring close to 28 points a game over the course of the next two seasons, that means he could get away with scoring closer to 22 points a game in the final two campaigns of our hypothetical five-year stint (assuming he averages 25 in that third season).

In that event, much would hinge upon Bryant's productivity in the short-term.

It's fair to assume Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and a deeper bench will have the combined effect of taking some shots away from Bryant, but it's also fair to assume that he'll make more of the shots he does take in a world where he's playing alongside one of the greatest facilitators of all-time.

The presence of other superstars hasn't stopped LeBron James from scoring 27 points per contest, and it's not as though Bryant wasn't already sharing the ball with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

In other words, it's hard to imagine Kobe's productivity slipping too drastically anytime soon. Even if he accepts a reduced role in the grand scheme of things, he'll still be expected to do plenty of scoring.

And that would probably remain the case if he decided to stick around and retire at 38.

Bryant has already become far more reliant upon his jumper than hyper-athletic moves to the basket. When you can shoot the ball like that, why not? There's nothing stopping Bryant from hanging out around the perimeter for another decade if he so chose.

No one would complain about him doing just that. Nor would anyone forget what he was able to do during his prime years.

By this point, the iconic guard's legacy is pretty well-established, and we know he has at least two more seasons to cement it even further with another championship.

Nevertheless, the opportunity to be known as the league's all-time leading scorer would give him something Michael Jordan will never have. It wouldn't necessarily make him better than MJ in the minds of most, but it would distinguish him and speak to his talent and longevity in tangible fashion.

Even if it's ultimately little more than a ceremonial sideshow, there's nothing like having one's name atop the record books to ensure that name repeated time and time again for decades to come—just like Abdul-Jabbar's.

Whether that record would last beyond Kevin Durant's career is another story.

But now we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. For now, we all know, Bryant will do his best to win games whatever that may mean for his personal legacy.

Just don't be surprised if he gets those 8,904 points one way or another.