Kobe Bryant Is Old, Battered, And Used: Is This The Year His Decline Begins?

Gordon TrueCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers grimaces after he injures his hand during the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is about to do something that Michael Jordan never did.

That is, go into an NBA season with more than 1,000 career regular season games already under his belt.

Kobe Bryant hit the 1,000 mark late last season and stands now at 1,021 career regular season games. This coming season he will, presumably, pass Michael Jordan's career mark of 1,072. 

Add the fact that Kobe has played in 198 playoff games in his career (good for 6th place all-time) and you can see that he is carrying a lot of mileage.

And its not just the heavy workload. Kobe has a well-documented history of playing through significant injuries. 

Just this week, Bryant had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. This is the third time that he has had his knee scoped.

While Kobe is relatively young at 32 years of age, he has already gone through more of the NBA rigors than many of the retired greats ever did.

Lets take a look at some of history's numbers and see what that might suggest for the remainder of Kobe Bryant's career.

If you were to compile a list of every NBA player who averaged more than 20 points per game for at least one season and began a season with more than 1,000 career regular season games, you would get a list of 30 players.

Kobe will be the 31st player in NBA History to meet these criteria when he begins the coming season.

Among these players are some of the all-time greats including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, and Dominique Wilkens. 

These players, together, averaged 20.5 points per game going into the season after they hit 1,000 career regular season games.

So how about that season after they hit the 1,000 mark? Together, they averaged just 13.78 points. That is a 33% drop in points per game.

Their rebounds took a similar drop at 31%, while their assists, as one might expect, held on a little better with just a 25% drop.

If you applied these percentages to Kobe's stat line you would get him averaging 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists next season. A far cry from the past few seasons.

Now, of course, the results vary and some players were able to keep the level of their game up better than others. But here are a few interesting facts.

No player on the list was able to average at least 20 points per game over the seasons that followed their 1,000 game mark.

Only four players (Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) were able to average at least 20 points per game the season after they hit 1,000 career regular season games.

The highest average was Karl Malone with 22.9 points per game. Even that would be the lowest average for Kobe since the season after he became a starter.

The Forwards and Centers on this list performed much better than the guards in their late years.

There was not a single guard who averaged at least 15 points per game the season following their 1,000 game mark.

After hitting 1,000 career regular season games, the players averaged just 194.6 more games in their career. That is less than three full seasons.

They started, on average, 70% of the games they played in after hitting 1,000 career games.

One thing that Kobe Bryant does have going for him is his age. He will be the youngest player to start a season with 1,000 career games under his belt.

The average age for these players going into the season after they hit 1,000 career games is 35.5.

So what does next season hold in store for Kobe Bryant? Only time will tell.

The numbers seem to suggest that this could be the year that Kobe begins his decline.


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