In a memorable past 20 years for the NBA, Kobe Bryant has been centre stage. Through the love, hate, controversy, awards and milestones it is safe to say that as a basketball fan he has taken us on an incredible ride. As Kobe bows out on a legendary career for the purple and gold, let’s take a look back at the historical numbers and the standout areas that capture how he will be remembered as a player, and ultimately those that will define his legacy.
Kobe is a winner. When we talk about creating a legacy or being great in your field, winning is at the top of the list. Kobe has won five NBA championships, including three in a row from 2000-2002 and two back to back in 2009-2010. In NBA history there are only 13 players who have won more championships than Kobe, and only five teams that have won three consecutive.
Kobe scored in abundance throughout his career and is universally recognised as a great scorer, but it is the manner in which Kobe scored that will define his legacy.
Kobe is a two time scoring champion, finishing as the league’s scoring leader in back-to-back seasons in 2005/06 and 2006/07 with 35.4 and 31.6 points per game respectively, with Kobe’s 35.4 Points Per Game being the ninth highest of all time. He also has had some historical scoring nights, recording the second highest scoring game in NBA history with 81 points, along with six 60 point games and twenty-five 50 point games throughout his career.
|NBA Single Season Scoring Leaders|
Kobe’s scoring style has taken some criticism over the years, especially as we have looked less favourably at both poor decision making and inefficient shot making since the introduction of analytics. Regardless of this, Kobe’s career field goal percentages are respectable- he converted on 44.7% of his field goal attempts in the regular season, and 44.8% in the playoffs. His career scoring averages are 25PPG in the regular season (12th all time), and 25.6PPG in the playoffs (14th all time), and It is ultimately these numbers that help rank Kobe so high in total points scored at the end of his career. Kobe has amounted 33,643 career regular season points and 5,640 career playoff points both of which rank third on the all-time leader boards.
However, when we look at his overall output, Kobe took a lot of shots, He ranks third all-time in field goal (FG) attempts in the regular season with 26,200 and 1st all-time in FG attempts in the playoffs with 4,499. Of the top three ranked players in shots attempted in the regular season, Kobe has the lowest field goal percentage. He also missed a lot of shots; Kobe is first in NBA history for both FG attempts missed in the regular season and the playoffs, he has missed 1,064 more shots than anyone else in the regular season, and 176 more than anyone in the playoffs.
|Total Missed FG's in NBA History (Regular Season)||Total Missed FG's in NBA History (Playoffs)|
|1||Kobe Bryant||14481||1||Kobe Bryant||2485|
|2||John Havlicek||13417||2||Michael Jordan||2309|
|3||Elvin Hayes||13296||3||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||2066|
|4||Karl Malone||12682||4||Karl Malone||2025|
|5||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||12470||5||LeBron James||1957|
|6||Michael Jordan||12345||6||Tim Duncan||1936|
|7||Dominique Wilkins||11626||7||John Havlicek||1878|
|8||Dirk Nowitzki||11530||8||Jerry West||1838|
|9||Elgin Baylor||11478||9||Tony Parker||1775|
|10||Allen Iverson||11439||10||Elgin Baylor||1773|
Although Kobe’s team play and efficiency has always been questioned, he will always be remembered for the big shots that he has made and his willingness to keep shooting these shots in adverse situations; after all he has created some of the most historical nights in NBA history.
Kobe was a multidimensional player that flourished on both ends of the court. He is the only player in NBA history to achieve 11,000 made field goals, 7,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists. Part of his legacy is that he was so relentless on the offensive end of the floor, but he was much more than a scorer, if we look at these numbers we can see just how versatile he was.
Alongside this, Kobe has also received All-NBA first team honours 11 times for his overall play and nine times for his defensive capabilities, indicating he was in the top five players in the NBA for both honours during these stretches. His defensive prowess can also be seen in the 1,944 career steals he has which ranks him 14th on the all-time steals list.
|NBA All-Defensive First Team Selections||All-NBA First Team Selections|
|Kobe Bryant||9||Kobe Bryant||11|
|Kevin Garnett||9||Karl Malone||11|
|Michael Jordan||9||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||10|
|Gary Payton||9||Tim Duncan||10|
|Tim Duncan||8||Bob Cousy||10|
|Scottie Pippen||8||Jerry West||10|
|Bobby Jones||8||Michael Jordan||10|
|Dennis Rodman||7||Bob Pettit||10|
|Walt Frazier||7||Elgin Baylor||10|
|Dennis Johnson||6||LeBron James||9|
Kobe’s talent, toughness and work ethic is something to marvel at; he has stayed true to himself throughout his career and has given us his all every time he stepped on the floor. For years now, Kobe has seamlessly played through father time and various injuries until his body could not take anymore, he has played a total of 20 seasons, accumulating 48637 minutes played- only five players in NBA history have played more minutes than Kobe.
|Minutes Played in NBA History|
He has been a permanent fixture in the NBA over the last three decades amongst players from different eras, through changes in playing styles, adapting to new rules, and ultimately playing until we saw a decline in his performance over the last few years.
Kobe’s popularity is unquestionable, he has 18 all-star selections which are the second most of all-time, but perhaps one surprising achievement that will contribute to his legacy is that he is tied first all-time with four all-star most valuable player awards, the most in the modern era.
|NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards|
Kobe’s drive to not only compete against the best in the game, but to win, outshine everyone and break every record imaginable speaks as much to the type of player he has been. Certainly winning mattered, but showcasing his individual talents mattered just as much; Kobe was a true competitor in every format of the game, and this will contribute to his final legacy as much as anything else.