Kobe Bryant’s legendary career & the legacy he has left behind

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 NBA champion

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 is notorious for his scoring capabilities

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
Position Player Average
1 Wilt Chamberlain 50.4
2 Wilt Chamberlain 44.8
3 Wilt Chamberlain 38.4
4 Elgin Baylor 38.3
5 Wilt Chamberlain 37.6
6 Michael Jordan 37.1
7 Wilt Chamberlain 36.9
8 Rick Barry 35.6
9 Kobe Bryant 35.4
10 Michael Jordan 35.0

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)
Position Player Total Position Player Total
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 is an all-round competitor

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
Player Total Player Total
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

Consistency/Body of work

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
Position Player Total
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 57,446
2 Karl Malone 54,852
3 Kevin Garnett 50,418
4 Jason Kidd 50,111
5 Elvin Hayes 50,000
6 Kobe Bryant 48,637

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 the All-Star

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
Player Total
Kobe Bryant 4
Bob Pettit 4
Michael Jordan 3
Shaquille O'Neal 3
Oscar Robertson 3

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.