Kobe Bryant has made it no secret that he has some very specific targets he wants to accomplish before retiring. He obviously wants to win his 6th ring, tying himself with Michael Jordan. His other goal is to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring title. Bryant currently sits at 31,617 points, 6,770 points behind Kareem’s all-time record. But with Bryant sticking to his claim that he’ll play just 3 or 4 more years, could he catch Kareem before Father time catches him?
Bryant is far and away the best scorer of his generation, and possibly the greatest of all-time. Only Wilt Chamberlain can stake the claim as an equally prolific scorer as Bryant. Despite pushing 35 years old next season, Bryant has hardly had a decline in scoring over his career, scoring more points last year than he had in four years. But how long can Bryant keep up this prolific scoring?
Let’s try some hypothetical situations here. If Bryant does plan on playing 3 to 4 more years, his chances of catching Kareem are fairly realistic. If you average out the 6,770 points he trails by over four years, Bryant would need to average 1,693 points a season to break the record. Take that down to three years and it’s an average of 2,257 points. In the first scenario, Bryant has a legitimate chance at breaking the record. Only once since 2000 has Bryant scored fewer than 1,693 points, coming in 2003-04 when he missed almost 20 games. If he plays just three years, Bryant won’t be breaking the record. Only “prime” Bryant, who put up 40 and 50 point games on a seemingly nightly basis, scored over 2200 points. Bryant last accomplished the feat in 2008-09 and, despite his great performance last year, he scored just 2132 points last year. The fact of the matter is that Bryant will need four years to catch Kareem.
The next problem is Bryant’s impending decline in talent. While he won the battle against Father Time this last season for the most part, he won’t stave him off forever. Bryant won’t put up the scoring numbers that he did last year in this season. His 27.3 points is an unattainable goal for any time in the future. Let’s say Bryant scores a more realistic goal of 23 points a game in 70 games next season, totaling 1610 points, just under the 1693 points he’d have to average over four years. That amount, however, would move him into 3rd all-time, passing Michael Jordan and moving him just 5160 behind Kareem.
A new dynamic comes into account after next season for Bryant. The Lakers current gameplan has them bringing in at least one marquee free agent in the summer of 2014, namely LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. If one of those comes to LA, Bryant will have to relinquish some of his scoring load to the new superstar. I do think LA will get Anthony, who will make Bryant’s life easier, but his record breaking quest much harder. Averaging out the 5160 points over three more years, then over 82 games (assuming Bryant plays every game), Bryant would need to average 20.9 points a game to keep pace to break the record. That’s over 3 years, with a new superstar likely taking the reigns of the team.
Long story short, the likelihood of Bryant catching Kareem is very slim. It’d take a lot of scenarios falling his way, including being the featured option going into the 2014-15 season, which isn’t the best case scenario for the Lakers as a franchise. Short of Bryant defying all odds and having another huge season next season while playing a large chunk of the season. But if we’ve learned anything about Bryant over his 17 years, it’s that you can never count him out.