Succeeding in the NBA is hard enough for young studs fresh out of college, but—with a few notable exceptions—it's downright impossible for a 36-year-old to excel.
Kobe Bryant, who celebrates his 36th birthday this Saturday, will attempt to join a handful of standouts throughout league history as a veteran who simply won't conform to the mandates of Father Time.
Bryant has always been one of the league's best scorers, but he'll have his work cut out for him if he hopes to join Alex English, John Havlicek and the rest of the premier point producers who suited up at either shooting guard or small forward when they were 36:
There's a clear conflict here.
No 36-year-old wing player has ever touched the 20-point milestone, although Michael Jordan averaged 22.9 and 20.0 points per game in 2001-02 and 2002-03, respectively. Jordan was 38, 39 and 40 in those two seasons. Of course, he retired for the second time after the 1997-98 campaign and missed his age-36 season.
Bryant averaged 27.6 points per contest during the two campaigns prior to his injury-plagued 2013-14 go-around.
How about passing, which the Lakers 2-guard has done better and better as his career has progressed?
Matching Scottie Pippen's mark will be rather difficult, though Bryant has been above 5.9 dimes per contest each of the past two seasons. Admittedly, one of those years saw him play only six games, so his role as a de facto point guard might have been a small-sample-size fluke.
He'll have a better chance at the No. 1 spot there than as a rebounder, though.
Bryant's career average of 5.3 rebounds per game is barely higher than Pippen's record for wing players at 36 years old, and most players have tended to trend downward in rather definitive fashion. Coming off a season in which he averaged only 4.3 boards per contest, he could have his work cut out for him.
Finally, we have the catch-all stat—win shares:
Reggie Miller is the clear-cut winner in this category, but Bryant will be hoping to get somewhat close. That would mean the Lakers are far more competitive than most expect, seeing as win shares require wins.
Of course, Bryant is doing more than playing at 36 years old in 2014-15; he's doing so while coming off a second major injury in two years. The odds aren't exactly in his favor, but we've also learned that betting against this particular veteran is never a good idea.
So, what are you expecting from Bryant during his age-36 season? Where will he place in these rankings?
Note: All statistics come from Basketball-Reference.com.