With Kobe Bryant's 30,000th point against the New Orleans Hornets he joined an elite club of only five NBA players to score at least 30,000 in their career. However, it seems that this seemingly amazing point threshold is more of an arbitrary line of greatness, rather than a show of how skilled a player is.
Of course, to score 30,000 points you've got to be great for a long time, but that can be used as more of an argument as to who is the greatest scorer for the longest amount of time, rather than giving a hard and fast argument about who is the best player of all time.
Kobe's career has been full of ups and downs, and the most important aspect of his career isn't that he was able to hang around long enough to put up an ungodly number of points, but more of a collection of achievements and storylines throughout.
The hubbub surrounding Kobe's reaching the 30,000 point mark wasn't going to cement him in any kind of legendary status, as collective career numbers rarely do throughout NBA history, it just gets him a few steps closer to things that really matter.
Ultimately, if Kobe does end up playing long enough to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring lead, then we can talk about a scoring total being the most important thing he's done. For now, however, it's just a mile marker on Kobe's career.
It seems that in some form or order a few things top Kobe's total points as his legend stands now, and they could stay in front of that particular number even if he does end up taking a few more steps up the leader board.
Five NBA Titles
The five (or however many he will have when he retires) NBA Championships that Kobe has are what everybody is going to point to initially when they think about his place in history.
He's got one more than Shaquille O'Neal and one fewer than Michael Jordan, something that is important despite people's incredulous arguments.
Sure, Robert Horry has seven championship rings, but he was never the leader or even the second-most important player on any of those teams. Kobe and Shaq were either option one or two, while Michael was a consistent option one.
When we're talking about greatness it's impossible to leave championship exploits out of the equation, and it's a definite plus to Kobe's career that he's got enough rings to fill an entire hand.
Bridging the Gap
There are often meaningless narratives that go along with the description of a player once his career ends, but they aren't meaningless in the long run; they're the lore that the rings and statistics write, and they're going to be involved somewhere in placing importance on players good enough to earn a lore.
Kobe's narrative is one of joining two eras, while bridging the gap between the legitimacy of the late '80s and early '90s and while rising above the individualism and hero ball of the late '90s and early '00s and on into the Super Team Era of the late '00s and early '10s.
In a way, Kobe has been an active member in each of those eras, even if they were a bit out of order.
He knew what it was like to be a part of a dynasty with the 2000 Lakers and their subsequent successes. He became the epitome (well, maybe next to Allen Iverson) of a guard-heavy, jump shot-dominant team that was the norm in the mid-2000s, and he's had a part in two major super-teams.
The only problem is that Kobe can't be pinned down into one of those groups, so we have to look at him as an overarching member of all three. And, at the risk of calling Kobe a multi-generational talent, he was extremely successful in each style.
Two Finals MVPs
When people get to talking about the greatest players in the history of the NBA, they often want to have a conversation about how they played when the heat was on. It's the reason Michael Jordan's six NBA FInals MVP Awards are so revered and LeBron James' knee-knocking in the 2011 NBA Finals were so criticized.
If you want to be considered the best player of an era, of all time, or just of a short stretch, there almost has to be some evidence of you stepping up in a big spot.
He was legitimately overshadowed by Shaq in the first two titles he won with the Lakers, but the third, it could be argued, was a lot closer than it seemed.
Once he became the unquestioned leader of the Lakers (and they added Pau Gasol), he got his own Finals MVP Awards to add to his trophy shelf.
His detractors can make all of the 6-of-24 jokes they want, but he was still the biggest reason why the Lakers were able to win titles in 2009 and 2010.
Those titles, and the NBA FInals MVP Awards that accompanied, will be the foundation that his legacy rests on for years to come.
It seems counterintuitive that this is more important than accumulating 30,000 points throughout a career, but it's a testament to how basketball greatness is measured on a day-to-day basis.
Basketball is a game-to-game sport, as far as important statistics go, while football seems to be of yearly importance and baseball importance is measured on the basis of an entire career.
If a player has a single magnificent game, he can be remembered forever. There's a reason why people still seem to bring up Andrei Kirilenko's five-by-five, but something as awesome as say, Ray Allen making 269 three-pointers in 2006 is just something that you look back at and say, "Huh."
Kobe's 81-point game is Chamberlainian in nature, not just in that he was able to score the second-most points ever in a regulation game, but in how legendary it has become.
It's easy to look back now and say Kobe was selfish and that he shot too much, but the fact is that Kobe actually shot a better percentage (28-of-46 for 60.8 percent) than Chamberlain did in his 100-point game (36-of-63 for 57.1 percent) and was shorter than most of the players on the floor.
I'm not ready to call it the greatest individual performance in basketball history, nor am I ready to call Chamberlain's 100-point game the greatest either.
The point is that they have performances to put them in the conversation, and just being a part of a conversation is more important than a statistical accomplishment any day.
That's what Kobe has done—he's put himself in a lot of conversations. And when people keep talking about him well past his retirement, we'll know more accurately where he fits in basketball history, more so than 30,000 points can tell us.
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