The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a horrid start this season.
However, although Kobe Bryant hasn’t quite been as efficient as he’s been in the past, he’s doing things in his 19th NBA season that simply haven’t been done before.
Few players have made it to 19 seasons in the NBA, and even fewer have displayed a level of play that Kobe Bryant has.
Four players come to mind when you combine longevity and greatness in the NBA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and now Kobe Bryant.
Kareem played 20 seasons, while Malone and Stockton played 19 seasons apiece. Kobe Bryant, of course, is currently 17 games into his 19th season.
Certainly, one must factor in age when it comes to comparing Kobe with the aforementioned Hall-of-Famers, as each was 40 years old in their respective 19th seasons, and Kobe is “only” 36 in his.
Another point that could be brought up is the fact that Kobe played all but six games in his 18th season, which would have some argue that Kobe’s 19th season is virtually his 18th.
Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to longevity in basketball, however, is minutes played.
Including playoff appearances, here are the following minutes totals for each player, up until — but not including — their 19th season:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 61,225
- Karl Malone: 60,588
- Kobe Bryant: 54,208
- John Stockton: 51,738
All factors bode well for Kobe when trying to compare him with guys who were older than him and played more minutes (except for Stockton) leading up to their 19th season.
Let’s take a look at some 19th season stats, anyway:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15.8 PER): 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
- Karl Malone (17.8 PER): 13.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists
- John Stockton (21.0 PER): 10.8 points, 7.7 assists, 1.7 steals
- Kobe Bryant(20.9 PER): 26.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists
Kareem was certainly not the same scorer or rebounder he was during his prime, as his averages were much lower than his 20-season career numbers of 24.6 points and 11.2 rebounds.
Malone was also nowhere near the 25.0 points and 10.1 rebounds average he achieved throughout his 19-season career.
Stockton wasn’t far off, however, as his 19th season numbers did not differ much from his career numbers of 13.1 points, 10.5 assists, and 2.2 steals.
As mentioned, some could argue that Kobe’s virtually in his 18th season this year, so let’s take a look at some numbers from the three legends’ respective 18th seasons in comparison with Kobe’s current numbers:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (17.9 PER): 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
- Karl Malone (21.7 PER): 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists
- John Stockton (21.9 PER): 13.4 points, 8.2 assists, 1.9 steals
- Kobe Bryant (20.9 PER): 26.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists
Each of those numbers are quite remarkable for a player in his 18th season, and more closely reflect each one’s respective career numbers.
Kobe’s numbers, however, are nearly identical to his career averages, and actually surpass his career points (25.5) and rebounds (5.3), while his career assists average (4.8) is slightly higher than his current average.
As far as PER ratings go, Malone and Stockton actually have higher scores in this cumulative stats department than Bryant.
When it comes to scoring averages, though, Kobe Bryant reigns supreme regardless of whether we’re comparing the aforementioned legends’ 18th or 19th seasons. Keep in mind, we’re talking about Bryant compared with the top two all-time scoring leaders in Malone and Abdul-Jabbar. To find a scoring average on par with the one the Black Mamba is currently on pace for, you’d have to go back to Malone’s 13th season (at age 34) or Kareem’s 12th (at age 33).
Not only that, but Vino’s leading all scorers in the current NBA season as well, in a league filled with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Antony, and Steph Curry (Kevin Durant is currently hurt, unfortunately).
Accompanying Kobe’s scoring is the glaring stat that his current field goal percentage (39.2) is much lower than his career average of 45.3 percent.
In the same breath, if we’re disregarding Kobe’s 2013-2014 season, we’ve got to also accept the fact that he virtually had not played consistent basketball in approximately a year and half leading up to the current season.
Additionally, the Black Mamba is starting to heat up and has averaged 28.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 8.0 rebounds on 50.0 percent shooting over the last two games — the most recent game being one in which Kobe became the first player to reach at least 30,000 points and 6,000 assists.
In the same night, he also became the oldest player to notch a triple-double with at least 30 points in a game.
NBA Record: Kobe Bryant First With 6,000 Assists And 30,000 Points