At 34 years old, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player to the 30,000 point plateau after scoring 29 points against the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night.
Kobe’s milestone puts him in a very elite club that included just four players previously: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan.
At 34 years and 104 days, Bryant beat out Wilt Chamberlain by 440 days (1 year, 75 days) to become the youngest player to ever accomplish this feat. Wilt was 35 years and 179 days old when he reached 30,000 points.
In third place, Karl Malone needed 36 years and 189 days to get to 30,000 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took 28 more days than the Mailman to score his 30,000th point (36 years, 217 days), and Michael Jordan, then with the Washington Wizards, was nearly 39 years old (38 years, 321 days) when he recorded his 30,000th point.
All this hoolpa surrounding this youngest-to-30,000-points-record has left me confused. It’s a nice-sounding milestone, and great for the NBA to further push Kobe Bryant, but what does it mean? Not every player enters the NBA at the same age and circumstances can relegate age-related records like this to nothing more than a fun fact.
Take, for example, Michael Jordan. Most everyone knows that Michael Jordan retired at 29 years old; in the prime of his career; after the 92-93 season. He basically took two full regular seasons off to find out that he missed basketball. He came back, won three more championships and took another break; this time retiring after his sixth championship. That time, he was gone for another three full seasons before making his second comeback, this time with the Washington Wizards, at the age of 38. All in all, Jordan was gone from the NBA for five seasons.
So then, what does this whole “youngest to score 30,000” actually mean?
The answer is nothing. Kobe benefited from being able to enter the NBA at age 18. Jordan was a 21 year old rookie. Karl Malone and Kareem were 22, Wilt Chamberlain was 23, roughly 5 years older than Bryant. So, it’s really just a title with no basis for real comparisons.
As my post argued five years ago, when Kobe reached 20,000, I don’t want anyone thinking that youngest equals the fastest to 30,000 points.
‘Games Played’ to Determine Fastest to 30,000 Points
Let’s work with real comparisons and look at games played to determine who really was the quickest to 30,000 point. By looking at the games-played as our measure – Kobe is actually #5. The list of the fastest to 30,000 points is Wilt, Jordan, Kareem, Karl Malone and then Kobe Bryant.
Not a shocker that Wilt Chamberlain tops the list with his otherworldly scoring averages; the Stilt achieved 30,000 points in only 941 games at a 31.3 point clip (at that point in his career).
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Mr. Michael Jordan came next, needing just 19 more games to reach 30,000 than Wilt. With a 31.3 career scoring average at that point, Jordan achieved his feat as a member of the Washington Wizards in his 960th game. Coincidentally, that game was against the Chicago Bulls, the team that he won six championships with. And as ESPN pointed out, Jordan needed roughly 7,000 less minutes than Kobe to get to that mark.
At 27.3 points per game, Kareem needed 15 seasons and 1101 games to get to 30,000 points. That’s thousands and thousands of sky hooks, and nearly a full season less than Kobe (79 less games).
The Mailman delivered his 30,000th point against the Minnesota Timberwolves – his 1152nd game. His per game scoring average going into that game? 26 points per game, good for fourth in this comparison.
Rounding out the list comes Mr. Bryant, who needed 28 more games than Karl Malone to reach the 30,000 point mark (1180 games played). Going into last night’s game, Bryant’s scoring average sat at 25.4 ppg.
I’m not demeaning Bryant’s talent. Clearly, the man can put the ball in the hoop, but with all these headlines talking about “youngest,” let’s not confuse Kobe’s “youngest to 30,000 points” with “fastest” or the most prolific.