Ranking Kobe Bryant's 17th NBA Season with Best Ever

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Ranking Kobe Bryant's 17th NBA Season with Best Ever
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Chances are, if you played at least 17 NBA seasons, you are keeping rare company with a small group of superstars.

Of the thousands of NBA players over the last 60 years, just 42 played for at least that long, making it an amazing accomplishment.

And, of that elite group, there are but a handful who managed to perform at a high level that late in the game.

To wonder where Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant might rank among the top 10 in this category is almost insulting, if not downright silly.  At age 34 and playing in season No. 17, Bryant is having a season for the ages.

Unlike Bryant, most of the players who made this list spent four years at the college level.  Many were 38 or 39 when they reached season No. 17.  That put them at a distinct disadvantage to the Black Mamba, who went straight to the Lakers in 1996 at age 18 from Lower Merion (Pa,) High School.

Still, 17 seasons is a grind no matter what age your career starts and stops.  Having a great year at that stage is indicative of tremendous skills, physical prowess and mental fortitude.

One player left off the list gets an honorable-mention nod.  Hall of Famer Moses Malone (19 NBA seasons, two more in the American Basketball Association) missed all but 11 games in his 17th NBA season while recovering from back surgery. 

Otherwise, the 6'10" rebounding machine would have been a lock.  He won an NBA title, was a three-time MVP and 12-time All-Star.   Malone holds the NBA record for playing 1,212 games without fouling out and, in his final appearance (1995) as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, hit a three-point buzzer-beater from the opposing free-throw line, 80 feet from the basket.

Ten of the league's greatest ever made the list for outstanding 17th season.  Where would Bryant's rank among them?  You be the judge.

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