Kobe Bryant is on the verge of breaking into an elite NBA group. The 30,000 point club has just four members, all of them considered among the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.
Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) are the only others to have accomplished the incredible milestone. To say that joining those names is an honor would be putting it mildly.
The endless debates about who is the greatest player of all time will not stop, but those in Bryant’s corner will certainly have some more ammunition once he reaches the milestone.
At 34 years old, Bryant will be the youngest of the four to crack the 30,000-point mark. However, he will have done it with more minutes played than any of the others, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Remember, he started playing straight out of high school at the age of 18.
So, where will Bryant find himself once his illustrious career comes to an end? It’s hard to say how long and hard he will continue to ball out, but let’s take a couple of things into consideration when breaking this down.
First, he is not going to be able to continue to be the volume scorer he’s been throughout his career as he gets older. Jordan saw a decline in his numbers as he aged. Likewise, Bryant is sure to slow down.
His days of scoring 30 points per game are behind him and he’ll likely decline towards the bottom end of his 25.4 points per game career average.
He’s bound to miss some games as well and already has during his career.
Bryant was non-committal about a timetable on his career as recent as October 2012. However, he did speculate he would play another two to three seasons, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles.
If he does end up calling it quits after three more seasons, he will likely add between 5,500 to 6,000 more points to whatever he ends up with at the end of this season. That's not enough to surpass Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time highest scorer.
Let's pretend he isn't satisfied and plays until he's 40 years old. After all, he's already accomplished everything an NBA player can at this point in his career. That leaves just one thing left.
If we project that Bryant will play five more seasons, while averaging 24 points per game over that span and missing 15 games throughout, he will finish with 9,420 additional points after whatever he puts up in 2012-13.
That would likely make him the first NBA player to eclipse the 40,000-point threshold.
Is it impossible? Certainly not.
Twenty-four points per game is a modest amount for one of the best scorers in NBA history, even in the waning years of his career.
If Kobe reaches that plateau, is there even an argument for who the best player in league history was? That’s a different discussion we’ll wait for until the time comes.
But, there is something to be said about that type of continued excellence.
He’d sure make it hard to argue against him.