Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
For whatever reason, it often takes a nice round number for us to all pause and take a second to recognize how brilliant a professional athlete is. Five hundred home runs, 10,000 rushing yards, or 30,000 points.
Kobe hit the latter last night. He joined four other players — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Obviously a pretty exclusive club reserved for the greatest of the greats.
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus did number formulatin’ and projected other active players likely to join those five. The most likely: LeBron at 90.5 percent, Kevin Durant at 58.1 percent and Dirk at 48.1 percent. LeBron is nearly 28 and has 19,442 points. Dirk is 34 and a half and has 24,134. KD just turned 24 and has 10,481.
Durant’s a solid 19,519 points away from the milestone. But with the way he’s trending, he almost seems to be a lock. (Obligatory injury disclaimer knock on wood pour out holy water cross your heart.)
“I hope so. That’d be cool man,” Durant said Thursday about reaching 30,000. “But right now, I’m just taking it a game at a time.”
Taking it one game at a time is the way to go. For KD. But I can’t help but dream ahead. Through KD’s first five seasons, he’s averaged 1,996 points a year. Including the fact that the next 6-9 seasons will be the absolute prime of KD’s career, let’s just pencil him in for 2,175 points a year for the next nine seasons (that’s 26.5 ppg over an 82 game schedule, which is about KD’s career average). That puts Durant passing 30,000 a little after he turns 33. One year earlier than Kobe, who of course is the youngest ever.
And that’s not including the fact that Durant’s ceiling as a per year scorer isn’t 26.5 ppg. He’s already averaged 30.1 in a season before and there’s no reason he couldn’t put up around 2,400 a year for the next nine.
Really, only two things will stop KD from not only getting to 30,000, but blowing completely past it: 1) That thing that happens when you’re not physically healthy and are unable to play in games and 2) Kevin Durant. With KD’s obsession of being an efficient scorer, he resists the urge to hoist 22 shots a night and is completely satisfied with 25 points a night, simply because it’s the default number he’ll score if he pretty much shows up. Durant’s not chucker. He doesn’t look for his own unless he has to. For being the purest and most gifted scorer in the game, he kind of resists scoring in a way.
Consider this fun fact: Durant is averaging 19.0 shots per game so far in his career. And a career-low 16.6 per game this season. At his career rate, Durant will have attempted a little over 20,500 shots when he passes 30,000 points. For comparison, Kobe’s attempted 23,071 shots so far in his career. That’s about 2,500 fewer shots. Or about a season and a half worth of shots. Think about that.
(Just because: Michael Jordan scored 32,292 points in his career on 24,537 shots. That’s 1.31 points per shot. KD’s averaging 1.38 so far in his career.)
KD’s going to get to 30,000. The real question is, could he potentially get to 35,000? Could he get to… 38,387? Maybe. Possibly.
Big takeway here: These next 10 years are going to be fun.
On how you stop a guy with 30,000 points: “You just hope to keep him under 31,000 points.”
On the Lakers being 9-10: I think if you look at teams’ records going into games I think you’re looking at the wrong things. We’ve always approach every game as their team does a lot of good things and we have to stop them from doing those things and we have to do the things well for us to win. And the records, any given night any team can beat any team in this league … The 9-10 record is not who they are.”
On Hack-a-Howard: “We’ve done it in the past, certain guys. It’s not something we will think about much going into it. But if it happens, if it presents itself, it’s all within the rules. It’s not something that we will gameplan for and strategize for. If the game dictates that, we will consider it.”
On what he likes about the way the team is playing: “I like the pace we’re playing with right now.”
On if he’s surprised the Lakers are 9-10: “Yes. They’re a really a good team. It’s early in the year, but they’re a really good team. They got so many champions, they got so many great players. They’re going to turn this thing around pretty quickly. So we got to go out there and be prepared for a tough, tough challenge tomorrow.”
On where Kobe rates all-time: “I watched Michael Jordan toward the end of his career, when he was in Washington, so I didn’t really get to see a lot of Jordan in his prime. But seeing Kobe, I know he’s an old fart, since I was about eight years old, watching him dominate every year he’s been in the league. It’s been a joy to watch. It was an honor and a blessing to play on his team this summer in the Olympics. He’s got 30,000 points man, to be one of only five guys to do it so far is an unbelievable accomplishment. It’s good to say you played in a game with a great player, probably the best player in my era that I’ve ever seen. It’s great to have someone to kind of aim to and look up to and compete against on a high level.”
On LeBron saying KD’s his inspiration: “I really appreciate that comment. Because people want us to hate each other so bad. That’s true. People want us to hate each other. But I really respect him and really compete against him so hard … but we’re friends. We’re friends. Everybody knows that. Once you get on that court if you’re playing against one of your friends you play to win no matter what. Sometimes he might he get the best of me, I might get the best of him one time. But I really respect him and that’s cool that he thinks of me that way.”
On if Kobe is one of the toughest players to guard: “Of course he is. But there are so many good players, so many talented players that really challenges the team and challenges me. He’s definitely one of them, but there are a lot of good players.”