As the end of his Hall of Fame career draws closer, Kobe Bryant is still going to take a lot of shots this year. But first, let's rewind to where it all started at the NBA level. The Los Angeles Lakers pulled a coup years ago by trading away Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant on draft day. He has be a great part of their franchise, and enriched their history with his championship level play. In this era there are no equals, peers, or rivals for Kobe Bryant. He has no scoring contemporaries as Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki are so far behind. So much so that many have started to look for his place in the history books -- his only real competition, it appears, are legends from previous eras. At the end of his career people want to know where Kobe Bryant 's scoring stacks up against that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan.
I believe all of that is true. But I also believe that the history books could end up being slightly more critical of Kobe than many of his fervent fans would ever accept from a national sports writer today, let alone a small market blogger.
If you look at the Top 20 all-time NBA/ABA scorers (a list from Basketball-Reference.com) you get a quick trip down the Halls of NBA history, where guys like Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Alex English, and Dan Issel stand the test of time, and sit amongst more overt greatness. The scorers here have accomplishments that stand on their own. So grading them is going to be fun -- grading them, against Kobe, that is.
Obviously, first we look at his points, it's easy to see that he is in the most elite group of scorers the game has ever known. But even amongst them, different groupings occur. I had fun with this. I looked at total points scored, the regular season metric which is brought up the most. But I also looked at the total number of missed Field Goals (a simple enough value to find, it's just FGA-FGM), and this shows you which players have missed the most shots. The last metric I'm using here is similarly simple, it's points per missed FG. That's a ratio which favors efficient players, and exposes volume shooters.
And the results, well, the results tell us what we expected to see.
Bigmen who didn't shoot (and thus miss) often look the best, i'm talking about Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dirk Nowitzki, and Moses Malone. The Bigs who were still efficient but shot a lot looked great too, though their number of misses are clear for all to see -- like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Wilt Chamberlain. (You could argue that early career Wilt belongs here, but late career Wilt belongs in the previous bigman group, if you want to get technical).
There are some big surprises with efficient guards, like Reggie Miller -- who didn't miss a lot, and scored a lot of points because many of his FGM were 3PTM as well. Oscar Robertson also shows up here, which is no surprise to anyone. A small surprise is that Julius Erving was a more efficient scorer than bigman Elvin Hayes.
The big surprise are the high volume non-bigs who miss a lot. Rick Barry shows up here, but we know him more as a showman . . . so I guess we forgive that? John Havlicek never came into my mind as a chucker, but against this group of the best ever scorers . . . it appears that he is one. No one has missed as many shots as John has. But it also appears that Kobe Bryant is going to surpass him as the all-time leader in missed shots. Ever. Kobe needs to miss 48 more shots this season to claim the top spot there. And he's more likely to miss 48 more shots than he is to score 7,000 more points, Kobe fans.
Shooters gotta shoot.
So one scoring record is going to be his at the end of his career. Just probably not the one he's going to publicize. Amazing player. Once in a generation talent. More championships than the majority of the NBA franchises out there. But also a guy who will have missed more shots than anyone else who has ever, ever, ever, ever played the game.