Is Kobe a Top-5, All-Time Player If He Retires as the NBA's Greatest Scorer?

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Is Kobe a Top-5, All-Time Player If He Retires as the NBA's Greatest Scorer?
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night was nothing spectacular by itself, and it only moved the under-achieving Lakers one game below .500 at 9-10.

It's easy to dismiss the importance of a struggling road win against an over-matched opponent when the Lakers will receive a true test in Oklahoma on Friday night, but this night was not really about Lakers or Hornets anyway.

Wednesday night belonged to Kobe Bryant, as he became only the fifth player in NBA history to surpass the 30,0000 point plateau, and at 34, Bryant is also the youngest player to ever accomplish that task.

It's a remarkable feat in a rather ordinary season so far for the Lakers, but what's even scarier about Bryant's accomplishment is where he might eventually end up if he decides to play two or more seasons before hanging up his sneakers for good.

When Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reached the 30K mark, they were all arguably on the down-side of their respective careers, and I'm not so sure if the same can be said of Kobe.

Of course, Bryant's physical skills have declined due to the approach of time, but it's really hard to draw that conclusion based on Bryant's numbers.

Bryant is currently leading the league in scoring at 28.0 points per game, he is first in field goals made and attempted, he is second in free throws made and he is third in free throws attempted.

More impressively, Bryant's 49 percent from the field ranks as the most efficient of his career, and he's only playing an average of 36.8 minutes per game, which is 19th in the NBA this season.

Bryant's season even looks MVP-ish when using the metrics that most of his detractors have pointed to when putting forth the argument that he doesn't belong among the league's current top five players.

If Bryant continues at this torrid pace it will be difficult to keep him out of the debate for the 2013 NBA MVP award, especially if the Lakers improve, and if he continues to score at this rate it may be harder not to recognize him as one of the game's top-five, all-time players as well.

There is no definitive top-five players list since the idea is so subjective, but I have noticed a consensus on a few players, and Bryant's resume is equal or greater in most instances.

Magic Johnson, Jordan, Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar are the names I have seen most frequently at the top of analysts' and fans' lists, and if Bryant does finish his career by surpassing Abdul-Jabbar as the game's top scorer, doesn't he deserve a spot as well?

It's not like scoring is the only thing Bryant has to hang his NBA legacy on.

I'm sure Bryant's five championships, two Finals' MVP awards, MVP award, multiple All-Pro and All-Defense selections hold their fair weight, and as Bryant inches closer to mythical all-time, top-five status, his critics' are finding less ground to stand on.

Bryant has proven that his brilliance as a player extends far beyond his ability to score, but it doesn't hurt that he may finish his career as the greatest scorer the game has ever known and quite possibly the best player of his generation as well.

Points may not be everything, but Bryant is the first player to crack the exclusive 30K club in some time, and judging from the point totals of the players chasing him, it may be some time before we reach this place in history again.

All statistics used are current as of Dec. 6, 2012.

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