Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reached a much heralded milestone Sunday, netting 26 points to surpass Michael Jordan for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Bryant needed 1,269 games to reach Jordan’s mark of 32,292 points, a number Jordan achieved after 1,072 career games. Now with 32,310 career points, Bryant trails only Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).
Although Bryant has passed Jordan in points, it's hard to call Bryant the more prolific all-time scorer. Jordan holds the all-time records for scoring titles and points per game. He is ahead of Bryant in seasons with averaging 30 points per game, 50-point games and highest season scoring average.
Who's the better scorer?
What Bryant should be lauded for is his longevity.
If Bryant maintains an average of at least 25 points this season, he’ll pass the two men sandwiching him on the all-time scoring list -- Malone and Jordan -- for most seasons with an average of 25 points or better in NBA history. The three are tied with 12 apiece.
Bryant is in his 19th season. His current scoring average would obliterate Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the highest scoring average by a player in his 19th season or later, which came in 1987-88 when Abdul-Jabbar averaged 14.6 points.
Bryant trails Malone by 4,618 points, therefore would need 182 regular-season games to pass Malone at his current scoring average of 25.4 points. The Lakers have 58 games left this season, so about halfway into the 2016-17 season figures to be a reasonable estimate for when Bryant could pass Malone.
Although Bryant figures to breeze by Malone, catching Abdul-Jabbar will be a challenge. If Bryant keeps up a pace of 25.0 points a game, which is roughly his career average, he could track down Abdul-Jabbar in the 2017-18 season.
Given Remaining Career Avg PPG
Some quick hitters highlighting the rarified air Bryant occupies as a scorer:
• His four straight 50-point games in 2007 is matched only by Wilt Chamberlain (who did it as many as seven times in the 1961-62 season).
• Bryant stands with Chamberlain as the only players with 10 games of 50-plus points in a season. Bryant did it 10 times in 2006-07, whereas Chamberlain did it 45 times in 1961-62 and 30 times in 1962-63.
• Bryant has averaged at least 40 points per game through a calendar month four times. Only Chamberlain (15 times) and Elgin Baylor (once) have averaged 40 in a month (minimum five games per month).
• Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game in the 2005-06 season. He joined Wilt Chamberlain (five seasons), Rick Barry (1966-67) and Jordan (1986-87) as players to score at least 35 points per game through an entire season.