Kobe Bryant surpassed the 20,000 point mark the other night making him the youngest player to meet that milestone at 29 years, 122 days.
His mark beat Wilt Chamberlain by almost two weeks (Chamberlain was 29 years, 134 days old). Michael Jordan, the only other player to reach the mark before turning 30, was 29 years, 326 days old.
Rounding out the top-five in the youngest-to-20,000 is Oscar Robertson at 30 years and 97 days old, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30 years, 342 days).
Sounds cool, but what does it really mean?
With all this talk about this youngest-to-20,000-record has left me scratching my head. I know it’s a nice-sounding record, and a cool news item, but what does it mean?
Being a stats-kinda-guy, it’s really just a title with no real basis for real comparisons. Perhaps if all NBA players entered the league at the same age, then the record would have some weight with me, but that’s not the case – making all this hype about Kobe being the youngest to hit 20,000 just that, hype.
And with all that hype, I don’t want anyone thinking that youngest equals fastest.
As far as which players were the quickest to 20,000 points, we looked at it with an apples-to-apples comparison. By looking at the amount of games-played to get to 20,000 points as our measure – Wilt, Jordan, Big-O, Kareem and ten other players reached that plateau faster than Kobe Bryant.
So it comes as no surprise that Wilt Chamberlain got there first with his gaudy scoring averages; the Stilt achieved 20,000 points in only 499 games – that’s an amazing average of 40.1 points/per game.
By comparison, it took Kobe Bryant 811 games at his 24.7ppg career average. That means it took him 312 more games than Wilt Chamberlain to reach 20,000, but that’s nothing to get down about, no other player is even close to Wilt’s mark.
Michael Jordan was second, no surprise there, needing only 620 games to reach 20,000 points (at 32.3ppg). Oscar Robertson (671, 29.8ppg), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (684, 29.2ppg), Elgin Baylor (711, 28.1ppg) fill out the top-five in this list.
Allen Iverson, whom came into the league the same year as Kobe, was sixth on the list and accomplished the 20K point mark in 713 games, almost 100 games less than Kobe.
Going through some internet-research and using basketball-reference.com, I was able to determine that Kobe’s best friend, Shaquille O’Neal reached 20,000 points faster, needing only 727 games. Dominique Wilkins (763) and Kobe’s former teammate Karl Malone did it quicker (772 games). So did Larry Bird, albeit by a hair (809). Other players that Kobe would find himself behind in this list are Jerry West, George Gervin, and Bob Petit.
Check out the list I compiled:
List of Players to Reach 20,000 with games played:
- Wilt Chamberlain (499 games) during the 1965-66 season (7th NBA season)
- Michael Jordan (620) January 08, 1993 vs Milwukee Bucks (9th)
- Oscar Robertson (671) during the 1968-69 season (9th)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (684) during the 1976-77 season (9th)
- Elgin Baylor (711) during the 1968-69 season (11th)
- Allen Iverson (713) January 23, 2007 vs. Denver Nuggets (11th)
- Jerry West (~720) during the 1970-71 season (11th)
- Shaquille O’Neal (727) March 20, 2003 vs. Sacramento Kings (11th)
- George Gervin (~745) during the 1985-86 season (10th)
- Bob Petit (~760) November 13, 1964 (11th)
- Dominique Wilkins (763) November 05, 1992 vs New York Knicks (10th)
- Karl Malone (772) Jan 20, 1995 vs Cleveland Cavs (10th)
- Adrian Dantley (775) December 11, 1987 vs. Washington Bullets (12th)
- Larry Bird (809) Nov 20, 1990 vs Washington Bullets (12th)
- Kobe Bryant (811) December 23, 2007 vs New York Knicks (12th)
- Hakeem Olajuwon (833) November 11, 1995 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (12th)
- Moses Malone (837) April 12, 1987 vs. Detroit Pistons (11th NBA season)
- Charles Barkley (858) February 08, 1996 vs New Jersey Nets (12th)
- Alex English (903) January 06, 1988 vs. New Jersey Nets
- Clyde Drexler (967) November 24, 1996 vs Los Angeles Lakers (13th)
- Kevin Garnett (*975) *projected games (13th)
For several of the older players (~), individual boxscores weren’t available and information was hard to find, but I was able to deduce enough to get an approximate games played. Anyone have exact numbers, please let me know.
Yes, it’s definitely great company. Yes, Kobe Bryant is an awesome player. And Kobe did reach the milestone before players like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Mitch Richmond, Clyde Drexler, and Kevin Garnett, but I wanted to make sure we took a look at this on a fair and quantifiable level.
Predicting LeBron’s Run to 20,000: If LeBron James stays healthy, all of Kobe’s “youngest to reach xxxxx points” records are going to be annihilated. In LeBron James’s first four seasons he accumulated 8439 points in 316 games, which equals 26.7 points per game. James is about to turn 23 years old (in 6 days) so he’s not even close to reaching his prime yet.
In predicting when LeBron will hit 20,000, let’s be conservative and say he averages 28 points over the next 6 seasons with an average of 74 games played. That means he’ll score ~2072 points in each of those seasons. This means that LeBron will reach 20,000 points in his 10th season, around his 730th game. Going with this prediction, LeBron James will just have turned 28 years old.
God I’m old.
Keep in mind that the above is a pretty conservative estimate. If LeBron stays injury-free, he is likely to average more than 28ppg in three of those seasons, for every point he goes over 28ppg in the next six season will bring him higher up on the list. Conservatively, we can say he’ll get to 20,000 in 730 games (good for #9 on the list), but I bet it’ll be closer to 700 games, which will put him #5 on the list behind Oscar Robertson and Kareem but above Elgin Baylor, Allen Iverson and Jerry West. And he’ll reach the 20,000 plateau at 27 years of age which is 2 years younger than Kobe.
Wow. I think it’s much more amazing when youngest records jibes with fastest records.
Sources: Bryant becomes youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points (AFP), Kobe Bryant Reaches 20,000-Point Plateau (Nba.com), Jordan records 20,000 career points 2nd fastest (FindArticles), Basketball-Reference’s Individual Game Results (Basketball-reference.com), Kobe Youngest to 20,000 NBA Points (IBN Forum)