Does Bryant want the scoring title? NBA A-Z
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
As Kobe Bryant’s bosses can attest, what he says and what he does aren’t always the same thing (see retracted trade demand, summer 2007).
So while the 34-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star and newest member of the 30,000-point club might have said as recently as October that he plans on retiring after two more seasons, there’s a certain we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it component that means this question is still in play: can Bryant surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer? The answer is yes – if he wants to.
Bryant already has the votes of Lakers legends Magic Johnson and Jerry West as the best Laker of all time, and his top priority in these twilight years is to match or even surpass Michael Jordan when it comes to his ring count (he trails six to five). But his possible path from 30,001 points to passing Wilt Chamberlain (31,419), Jordan (32,292), Karl Malone (36,928) and finally Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) is entirely possible so long as he stays healthy. If Bryant was able to keep up his career-long pace of scoring an average of 25.4 points per game, the then-38-year-old would break the record approximately a third of the way through the 2016-17 season.
A dropoff in production would complicate things, as Bryant would surely want to wrap up the record in that 2016-17 season rather than deal with the PR nightmare of returning in 2017-18 to predictable accusations that he was ending his career the way he began it – by being too driven by individual achievement. Yet if he averages 21.3 points per game from here on out as opposed to 21.5, for example, that’s precisely what could occur. His contract status and the outside chance that he could finish his career elsewhere would come into play, too, as Bryant is only signed through next season (when he’ll make a league-high $30.4 million).
None of which resonates with Bryant right now because of the tall task at hand. His so-called Super Team Lakers are an underwhelming 9-10, and Bryant and Dwight Howard spent Wednesday night bickering about blown defensive assignments on the New Orleans Arena … [For more on Does Kobe Bryant want the NBA scoring title? NBA A-Z, click here.]