Young man at 26K: Kobe hits another milestone

With a jumper in the third quarter of Thursday's 118-112 loss to Denver at Pepsi Center, Kobe Bryant cracked the 26,000 point threshold, becoming the youngest player (32 years, 80 days) to do so in the history of the NBA. Pretty impressive. From a games played standpoint, Bryant (1,030) is the eighth fastest to 26K, behind some guys you may have heard of (Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, to name a few).

Marks like these are interesting and can certainly put a guy's career in perspective, but at the same time are a little arbitrary. We note 26,000 because it's a round number. Far as I can tell, Bryant was also the youngest to 25,758. Pick another number higher than the 26,017 he has after Thursday's 34-point performance, and he'll likely be the youngest to that one, too.

The age thing, too, can be tough to break down. Does it matter Kobe required fewer days on this planet to get there? It helps to start at 18. Does it matter other guys got there in fewer games? Not really. Kobe averaged 15.5 minutes in his rookie year, 26 the next. Wilt, to pick one guy, averaged over 30 shots a game through the first four years of his career (including an astonishing 39.5 in his third season) and never- never!- averaged fewer than 40 minutes a game in any season during his career. (Re-read that one a few times to make sure it wasn't a massive Basketball Reference typo.)

Apples and oranges.

At this stage of his career, Kobe is likely to set some sort of milestone or join some exclusive club nearly every night he plays. Some of the stats will be easy to track (for example, Kobe is 378 points behind John Havlicek for 11th on the NBA's all-time list), others will require the supercomputers at Elias Sports Bureau or ESPN's outstanding Stats and Information department, and they'll vary in significance. But all play into the collective tendency of our sports culture to constantly quantify players, often to the point of missing what they do to build the numbers in the first place.

So the takeaway from Thursday's milestone? To score 26.000 points in the NBA, at 32 or whenever, really, is impressive.