Fourteen games into the 2011-12 NBA season, Kobe Bryant is playing like a Kobe fan would play him in a basketball video game. This shouldn’t be surprising, because who could be a bigger Kobe fan than Kobe Bryant? To answer my own question, I’m pretty sure there are thousands of people who are bigger Kobe fans than Kobe Bryant, but let’s assume that Kobe is a pretty big fan of himself.

Kobe is leading the league with 351 field goal attempts, at the moment. There isn’t anything particularly remarkable about that fact — he’s finished with the most FGAs four other seasons in his career. What’s freaky about this season is that Kevin Durant is in second place with 233 FGAs — meaning that Kobe has taken over 50 percent more shots than any other player.

There’s been one other season in which he averaged more shot attempts per game. That was the 2005-06 season when he took 27.2 attempts per game, compared to his average of 25.1 attempts per game this season. Of course, he played more minutes that season, and his per-36-minute average of 23.9 attempts was the exact same as this season. I should also note that he was 27 years old that season and the third-best player on that Lakers team was arguably Smush Parker. I think we can agree his supporting cast is a little better this season.

Perhaps the most amazing stat to show Kobe’s ball dominance this season is Usage Rate. which is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he is on the floor. Kobe’s Usage Rate this season is an even 40 percent, while Carmelo Anthony is a distant second at 34.3 percent. Basketball-Reference.com tracks Usage Rate from the 1979-80 season onward, and since Kobe has played 528 minutes so far this season, I looked up the rankings for players who played at least 400 minutes and had Usage Rates of at least 35 percent. It turns out that Kobe has the highest Usage Rate recorded over the past 33 seasons.

When people discuss Kobe’s ball dominance, they typically claim that he’s selfish or that he doesn’t trust his teammates. There’s undoubtedly something to those accusations, but I think there might be something bigger at play here. If Kobe continues his 32.0 points per game average over the rest of the season and plays in every regular season game (unlikely, but not impossible), he’ll finish the season 2,312 points behind Michael Jordan in all-time scoring. He hasn’t scored that many points in a season since the 2007-08 season when he was 29 years old and played all 82 games, so he’s unlikely to pass Jordan in scoring next season. That leaves the 2013-14 season for Kobe to become the highest-scoring guard of all-time — perhaps not coincidentally, that’s the final season of his current contract.

Everybody talks about Jordan’s six championship rings and how Kobe would undoubtedly love to match or even pass that total before he retires. Whether or not he admits it, I don’t know any NBA fan who doesn’t believe that to be the case. But Kobe only has so much control over that — no one player has ever been able to win a championship by himself. The Lakers don’t have a very good supporting cast this season, and that might not improve significantly while Kobe is taking up $27.8 million in cap space next season and $30.4 million the season after that. In all likelihood, two more championships are not in Kobe’s future.

Then again, that’s the post-season we’re talking about. It’s not like the Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs in each of those seasons — for all the talk about how Kobe’s remorseless shot-jacking is supposedly bad for his team, the Lakers are fifth in the Western Conference with a 9-5 record and they’ve won five of their last six games while Kobe has averaged 28.5 shots. It helps that he’s on a run of four straight 40-point games.

It’s not a matter of if Kobe will pass Jordan in career scoring, it’s really a matter of when. He probably doesn’t need to continue to dominate the ball like no other player over the past three decades in order to reach that mark, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Besides, you think Mike Brown is going to tell Kobe Bryant not to shoot so often? LeBron James laughs heartily at that suggestion.

Hate him or love him, Kobe Bryant will end his career with the most points of any guard in NBA history. As for whether he’s going to try to play well into his late-30s to try to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — who scored 6,095 points more than Jordan — for the ultimate scoring title, that depends on modern medicine. Nobody with an ounce of sense doubts Kobe Bryant’s force of will.

Comments (54)

  1. I think most of all he’s just trying to prove he’s not washed up and that people shouldn’t count him out. He’s playing unbelievably but he needs to be a part of the offense, not be the offense. Although I’m sure an image of MJ is always in the back of his head

  2. Kobe will never surpass MJ as a player.

    • Yo.. Don’t flatter yourself. You know the quote “Never say never.”? Whether you like it, or not, Black Mamba WILL SURPASS Jordan, b4 his contract expires, with the Lakers. Okay…. Let me ask u sumthing…. How many points did he score, per season? Right before the lockout took away 16 games? There’s absolutely no reason why you think Kobe won’t surpass Jordan’s career points. That’s stupidity to say. You gotta believe it, when NBA’s quote “Where amazing happens.” Deal with it!! KOBE WILL SURPASS JORDAN, IN A MATTER OF TIME!!!!!! Jordan is retired! Kobe is active!

    • but kobe will end up with 6 rings or 7 rings before he retires :-)

  3. Kobe does not think about stats, I think. He’s not homosexual. Enough of that surpass-surpass, he’s not washed up BS.

  4. Kobe can pass Kareem, if he simply played til 38, which is not crazy to think.
    And if he averages 1600 pts a season after this season (assuming he gets to the 2,000 plateau this year), again not impossible when he’s on the other side of 35 because he has never averaged less than 1,600 when healthy and starting.
    And, being an optimistic-Kobe-fan, I think he’ll get one more title, if not 2, and then being the NBA’s All Time Scoring Leader and having 6/7 championships, he WILL be the greatest player of all time!

  5. I argue a lot of these things with friends who love Kobe but don’t care for the Lakers — apparently, I’m “ungrateful” for thinking Kobe has shot many easy games and a lot of great wins away with shoddy shot selection and never passing out of double teams.

    But here’s my problem: Scott Carefoot, you’re becoming as bad as a Kobe “hater.” It seems as if it’s your mission to take the other side of this, a little too much. On Twitter, here, it seems as if your primary area of concern is proving that Kobe’s ways have hurt LA more than helped them. Sure, that’s accurate, but there is no need to make that your only real agenda, at least to regular eyes. Might as well bring up Kobe’s rape allegations or his divorce, just like every other ghetto-ass Kobe “hater.” You’re easily one of the best basketball writers on the ‘net, but this has become ridiculous.

    You’re not swaying anyone — Kobe fans will be Kobe fans regardless, as well Kobe haters. We get it; make your point, and move on to other awesome basketball coverage.

    • Amen! Very well said, Carlos, I for one am tired of the constant comparisons between Kobe and Jordan. I know Jordan has great stats, etc., but he is still a mere mortal, and he may have even been a gambler during the time he played in the NBA. I love to hear the wailing from the Kobe Haters, especially when Kobe is playing awesome, like currently.

  6. This whole thing is like Jason Kidd being third in 3PM. Doesn’t mean anything except that he’s been around for quite a long time.

    I’ll take MJ’s totals in a career with two retirements over Kobe’s in 16+ years in the NBA. Quality over quantity.

  7. kobe > jordan

    kobe = g.o.a.t

  8. Although I do count myself as a Kobe fanboy, I really like seeing someone backing stuff up.
    Oh and Billy, how ’bout Earl Manigault?

  9. Carlos: I don’t think I’m particularly critical of Kobe in this post. I’m simply proposing a theory about why he’s being more ball-dominant than at any point in his career.

    • You do know they added a reply button right?

    • Carefoot! Kobe Bryant is a true NBA professional. 16+ seasons in the NBA and counting. Bryant has an amazing jump shot, textbook! The man has every right to be on a mission. I would hazard to guess Bryant is only thinking about stats and records this season. Bryant wants Howard in LA. Bryant understands how the NBA business works. If Andrew Bynum plays like a top 2 center, LA will not trade him. Bryant does not want Bynum in LA. If. Anyone can judge talent, I’d put my money on KB. Let Bryant shoot and shoot because it’s not such a bad strategy. Bryant is 33 and this might be the last we see of him. He might as well go out strong in his final NBA professional years.

  10. to many its more simple rather than stats comparable, sometimes with stats you forget real life, right now i think he;s doing what he thinks he needs to do to win. which is what all basketball players want, 3rd quarter last night (against clips) puts up 21, the team is losing and he doesn’t want to lose. he’s stepping up his game(injured as always) and the team is above .500, maybe i’m just simplifying but that’s just how i perceive his current achievements.

  11. I feel a lot like JonoHimself about total points, assists or other compiled numbers. They just show how many years players have been able to play. Look at where Larry Bird ranks in points, does show anything about how great a shooter he is ?

    I’m not a Kobe fan but I really don’t think he dominates like this to climb the ranking. Like others said, he wants to proove something/win games.

    And I also think he’s angry (divorce+sweep last year+odom+etc)

  12. Exactly — you may as well be talking about Mark Jackson having more assists than Magic Johnson. He played an extra 300 games and only just passed Magic, but there’s no doubt who was the better playmaker.

    The only reason the points total is significant in conversation is because you can’t talk about scoring averages until the player has retired for good. THAT is what matters.

    Kobe – 25.3 ppg
    Jordan – 30.1 ppg (pre-hand checks, zone defense)

    Mark Jackson – 8 apg
    Magic Johnson – 11.2 apg

    I’ll take Jordan and Magic, please.

    • Pre-handcheck and zone defense rules, yes. Also, pre-european influx, pre (hilariously) post jordan talent boom, pre-microfracture/ACL/etc. surgery rescuing players from early retirement. The level of talent in the NBA is higher and deeper now than it ever has been, and Kobe is playing against that.

      • Do you know what type of teams Jordan and the bulls had to go against almost every night.. Legendary teams… Pistons, Celtics, Knicks, Magics, Rockets, Suns, Spurs, Pacers, Hornets, Heat, Sonics,Jazz, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Hawks that is 15 teams out of 27-28 half of the league was a force. and you are saying the NBA is better today? With teams like the nets, the t-wolves, the wizards?? seriously?

        • But you’re mixing up eras in your argument. The league was at its strongest in the late 80s and early 90s (Pistons, Celtics, Lakers, Hawks, Suns, Rockets, Blazers mostly) while the other teams you mentioned weren’t even in the picture at that time.

          Then we got the Rockets/Jazz/Sonics/Knicks/Spurs era in the late 90′s, which was obviously a lot weaker, but still quite competitive. The other teams (Celts, Lakers, etc.) were non-factors at this point.

          In other words, I understand your argument, but I’d say there has NEVER been 15 quality teams in the NBA at the same time. It always hovers between 4 and 8, with one or two peaks of 10.

        • the legendary lakers, celtics and pistons of the 80s kept mj and his bulls watching nba finals on tv. when those teams aged and went into decline in the 90s, it opened the door for mj. check it out.

      • “Post-Jordan talent boom!” Priceless!

  13. (*pre-hand check rules, that should say)

  14. I guess only time will tell …

  15. I don’t think Scott is saying we should compare Kobe and MJ. No one in TBJ would put MJ anywhere other then the best.

    Scott is simply trying to discuss Kobes high usage rate, FGA and point hunger. Simply saying Kobe will (apparently) pass MJ in total points.

    So don’t wory no one thinks career total points > PPG. That said Career Total points are still a thing and you would be stupid to say that being the highest point scorer of all time is not important.

  16. Nobody can say they know exactly what goes on in Kobe’s head, but everything I’ve read on him leads me to believe that he’s a near-psychopatic competitor. In other words, he just wants to win, and he wants to do it his way (mostly). And it has proven successful more than few times in the past.

    If they win many, many games and make a deep playoffs run with him shooting like a madman, then where’s the problem?

  17. the problem with all this is that, regardless of the value added/subtracted by Kobe’s usage and shot selection this season, he has an extraordinarily high usage rate in a season with b2b2b’s and few periods for rest—considering kobe has knees undergoing treatment in germany and injured wrist ligaments, etc–I just don’t know if he can continue this pace and not injure himself or wear himself out before the playoffs–he needs to play 20-30 minutes per night so that he can be fresh for the playoffs–

  18. Pre-zone? And that’s supposed to be easier?

    Anybody who has watched the celtics defense the past 5 years, and what it does to wing players (lebron included) should think twice before considering it as stg easier o play agains. The coverage and traps you can set with a zone are much harder to fight against than man-to-man defense that had to go along illegal defense stuff.

  19. kobe shoots more than anyone in the nba hes avg. 32pts a game which yea thats good but lebron is avg. 29.5 on 60% shooting , kobe has shot more than 100 more shots than lebron shows just how much he shoots the ball and the bad percentage as well.

  20. I get a kick out of these Jordan vs Bryant arguments. Here’s my observations throughout Kobe’s career:

    - Kobe started his career on the bench being an “off the bench” player i.e his ppg and other stats were low for his first season.

    - Kobe played under Shaquille O’Neal until 2004, although he had some phenomenal scoring years, but Shaq was the go-to guy so Kobe couldn’t perform in the way I’m sure he wanted to. Jordan WAS the go-to guy for the Bulls, i.e 12 years of being the go-to guy for one team he was able to accomplish all of what he was able to accomplish in terms of MVP’s, ppg etc.

    - Kobe’s first three seasons the Lakers had sub-par coaches at best, it wasn’t until Phil Jackson came around that the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq were able to execute at a championship level.

    - They played in two different era’s; Lakers and Celtics dominated the 80′s hence why Jordan didn’t win in the 80′s, after Bird, Kareem, and Johnson retired the competition thinned heavily giving MJ a chance to be the top dog in the NBA. There weren’t as many superstars in jordan’s era as there are now hence Kobe has to work to keep a name for himself while Jordan (in my opinion) had it a lot easier.

    - Comparing accolades when you take all factors into consideration I think both players are at an equal level, Jordan’s just looks better because Kobe spent his first 8 seasons being the “Robin” or should i say “Pippen” role to Shaq while it was reversed for Jordan. Kobe’s still performed phenomenally, and he’s doing so to this day at his age with the injuries he’s undergone.

    Again this is all just my observation albeit it’ll attract a lot of Kobe haters and I’ll probably get bashed in the process. Anyways I’m done. :)

    • Well stated, Garrett. You bring up excellent points that not too many people think about regarding the roles both Jordan and Bryant played for their teams.

    • well stated. and there was nba expansion during mjs career, further diluting the talent. there is no question mj had it easier. mj and kobe are on the same level and that is my final word on the matter.

    • I would also like to add your the list, Kobe playing in the triangle offense made a difference in points scored.

      • Who am I, I’m no one…. but Phil Jackson, Lakers shooting coach, and guys who have played with both Kobe and MJ have all said Jordan would average 40-50 points a game if he played in today’s game.

        It’s just a fact, it was harder to score back then. Watch the Jordan Rules games against the Detroit Bad Boys, tell me Kobe is tough enough to put up with that physical defense and still score 30+ points a game.

    • Garret you said that MJ’s competition thinned heavily? So you think that Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isaiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Shawn Kemp, David Robinson, Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’neal, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins were thin competition? HA! They played when hand checking was legal and flagrant fouls were really FLAGRANT!

    • All hail the greats of the yesteryears! Basketball is built on comparisons…this is why stats are kept, to keep the sheep in line….especially you stat crunchers that never had a chance to see the magic MJ made. Kobe’s game is great, phenomenal, of championship caliber. But please, please kill the comparisons between the two. Different cities, different Phil, different supporting cast, SAME fools drooling over something they have no control over. Kobe will always be in MJ’s shadow, hell, we all still go up for a layup every now and again and say, “JORDAN”. And you all wish your favorite player had “Ice Water” running through his veins, 4th quarter clutch…….long live the Rings. Be it 5, 6, or 7. Watch some damn basketball!!

  21. ditto. kobe and mj are on the same, period.

  22. Dont quite know what to think, kobe’s my all time favorite but I have to agree that jacking up a butt-load of shots and scoring by one’s self doesn’t seem like the best way to getting rings in sport completely based on team effort, then again Kobe is a player who has actually surpassed team effort on more than one occasion. Hopefully, mamba knows what he’s doing.

  23. By the way, Jordan never statistically achieved this, Kobe has.

  24. Kobe is great but MJ is just way better thatn Kobe! Come on now people! MJ has 6 rings. Yeah Kobe has 5 but I don’t think he can get the 6th or even surpass it. If MJ didnt retire the first time, he might have got 7 rings on his fingers!

    Jordan at his prime played with much harder defense than the NBA defense of today! I mean the flagrant fouls back then when MJ was at his prime were so violent that if those fouls happened today, they would suspend whoever made that foul. No question! MJ scored efficiently than Kobe. Do your research! The freakin Bulls of MJ has the record of 72-10!!! Come on now!

    No contest….MJ > Kobe

  25. Kobe the best player in NBA history and he doesn’t have to have 6 ring or 6 mvp’s Kobe has broken more records than Jordan ever have championships it about a team not a individual player that’s why Jordan have his 1 ring in his 7 season on the NBA 72-10 why because he had a better team than Kobe ever had including with shaq it’s not the same having the same team more than 6 years that having a transition team. scoring efficiently its when you have easy shots if you have some one that can give you open shots Jordan have a lot of that more than Kobe why because he had a better team.

  26. Who was guarding Jordan again ehlo starks russell iseah kidd none of them defense stars then it was about trees inside
    Jordan hand swipes
    Push offs
    no charging. Carrying over
    2nd strike season for kobe
    how many coaches and styles
    no real point guard tossing. Lobs
    most of all the league crowned jordan king
    besides jordan i gone 14 years now
    and russel has 11 rings

  27. Who was guarding Jordan? Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Gary Payton. Whoever the team’s best defensive player was usually went on MJ. And who’s been guarding Kobe that’s so great? Joe Johnson? Ray Allen?

    Face it, there’s no interior defensive beasts compared to back then. Jordan scored a lot at the basket, facing Hall of Fame giants like Ewing, Hakeem, Mutombo, Shaq, David Robinson, Moses Malone, Parish, etc. Whereas if Kobe gets to the rim it’s like, ‘oh hey there, Kendrick Perkins’.

    Forget the rings…. Look at the MVPs. Look at the stats. Just watch Jordan play. It’s not a debate, it’s a fact.

    For the full breakdown of comparison with in-depth stats, defense and offense, regular season, playoffs, clutch, wins/losses, awards check out this link:

    http://blitzsportsnetwork.com/2011/10/kobe-bryant-vs-michael-jordan-comparison-2011/

    Can’t argue with facts.

  28. laughing at the this guy kose, saying that Kobe is the best player in history of the NBA. HA! Kobe is great, yes! But as I said, MJ is way better than Kobe!

    I bet people saying that Kobe is better than Jordan has never even SEEN MJ play! I grew up watching MJ and I witnessed Kobe’s progress. Everytime MJ played, there is just a certain aura that he just can’t be beat! Larry Bird even called MJ as God disguised as MJ! That’s how good he was man!

    What proof do you need? stats? man, research and you will see that MJ isgreater than Kobe Bean Bryant.

    • Kobe is a better ball handler and came in the game with a mid range game straight out of HS. So what if Jordan did it first. Egypt had the first scientist but who cares

      • ball handling, i’ll give that to Kobe. Overall feel for the game? MJ. Mid range game? Kobe? You forgot bout the air balls he made in the playoffs when he was younger? I believe he made two of those in the dying seconds? He took it with people hanging on his neck man! Come on! And with all the bad in game decisions he made, You still believe he his better than MJ?

  29. I am sick and tired of hearing about Kobe Bryant…
    As JE skids and Tas Melas of The Score NBA Court surfing were saying last Wednesday night Jan 11… during Lakers vs Jazz game..
    “kobe chucks up too many shots.” “Kobe forgets he has Andrew Bynum as a teammate” “Kobes trying to make his shot too sexy that’s why he missed his fade away”….

    Tas Melas made a strong point last Wednesday night… After Kobe scored 40 points….. Kobe got his 39th and 40th point from freethrows…
    Tas was bang on when he said that… how can you seriously be compared to MJ when you have to score your 39th and 40th point from freethrows…

    The Guys from the score are with me when I say that Lebron James is the best player..
    I am insulted that Scott, you did not mention Lebron James once in the blog… the Miami Heat are better than any of the 1990’s Bulls and Any 2000’s Lakers with Shaq/Kobe, Kobe/Pau…

    MJ and Kobe have a combined 11 rings…
    Lebron will have 11 rings to himself after he retires…

    Tas Melas and JE Skids should be promoted to executive producer of the score… they are so exciting to watch.. they know all… about all… and they are not biased..

    Lebron James, Tas Melas, JE Skids = Greatest of All Time.

  30. Hmm… nah. you’re pretty much wrong about Lebron there.

  31. Stay Schemeing T-shirts for sale.(Kobe fans will love these)
    http://pgs.bigcartel.com/

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