Kobe’s Late, Great 48

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t do it. Neither did Karl Malone or Moses Malone. Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West were never even in position to do it.

So it’s worth pausing to reflect on the 48 points Kobe Bryant scored Tuesday night in the Lakers’ 99-83 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Bryant got his points on 18-of-31 shooting from the floor and 12-of-13 accuracy from the line in 39 minutes. They came despite the torn ligament in his shooting wrist and were his biggest output since he got 49 against the Suns back in March 2009.

But what made them historic was that they came in his 16th NBA season – the most points in a game scored by someone who has played that long, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Feeling old yet?

Bryant claims he is not, even though he already has stuck around longer (in seasons) than Jordan, Robertson and many others. “You have to figure out a way to get it done,” he said. “There’s no time to make excuses. If I play bad or have one bad game like I did in Denver, everybody cries for a change or cries for the fact I’m too old. … I made adjustments and go from there.”

Set jaw or not, there are chinks in Bryant’s armor. Some of his cat-quickness and lithium-lift are subdued now, and he’s not as resilient as he once was. For example, the Lakers’ shooting guard is hitting at 38.1 percent and 25 percent on 3-pointers when he played the night before vs. 42.8 percent and 39.7 percent after rest.

But the adjustments he has made – veteran shortcuts – have been apparent, too. That’s what ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande heard from Bryant bud Derek Fisher:

“He’s always going to be aggressive and assertive to score, but he’s picking his spots and he’s doing it in a very efficient manner. That ranks it right up there with the best of them because it doesn’t look like he’s trying to do it. He’s just doing it within the flow of the game. That’s been very effective for him and us.”

Adande noted that 14 of Bryant’s 18 field goals came from below the foul line (he was 0-for-3 from the arc). And it only makes sense for him to adapt, since he’s playing at a level rarely known by oldsters.

OK, so Bryant had a head start. He’s already in his 16th year because he arrived fresh from high school, so he’s playing all season at 33. Abdul-Jabbar was 38 when he scored 46 at Houston in 1985-86, his 17th season. Shaq was 36 in year No. 17 when he scored 45 for Phoenix against Toronto on Feb. 27, 2009 during the 2008-09 season.

But playing and scoring the way those big guys did was far less taxing than working in the open court, off the dribble, without any inherent size advantage. It’s the reason Bryant has achieved what he has and the reason he’s crowding into discussions of the NBA’s top five of all-time.

53 Comments

  1. Julius says:

    This is a question for the author, Steve Aschburner. When will you resume your Race to the MVP column? I miss it :(

    I have always looked forward to reading Aldridge on a Monday and yourself on a Friday. I know the season is young, but surely the MVP candidates have already begun to state their case?

  2. Pedro says:

    If Kobe is not one of the greats, explain to me why the haters always have to bring MJ to the topic and make comparisons?

  3. paul says:

    this is stupid! kobe is only 33!! not old at all.
    MJ at tha age was even better and winning rings.

  4. Lakers R Us says:

    I watched both the Laker-Pheonix and Laker-Utah games! In both of these games Kobe took over and won them for his team! Andrew Bynum had a lot of good shots in the Utah game; they just weren’t falling for him! If his shots would have fallen the Lakers would have won by at least 15! My opinion! Say what you want about Kobe Bryant! He won both of these games for the Lakers with his stellar shooting! Even with a bad wrist! And they were very short handed! No Murphy, MacRoberts, or Kapono! And they really need those guys! Hats off to Kobe Bryant! I’ve followed him for years and he’s an amazing player! Lebron is younger and more athletic because of his youth! But he’s not better, in my opinion! Even at Kobe’s age he hold’s his own with Lebron!

  5. Law064 says:

    Big up to Kobe playin thru injuries and being a 16 year vet. He also just poured in 40 last night. Lebron will never reach Kobe’s level let alone MJ’s. I’m no Laker or Kobe fan but if your a true NBA fan you know deep inside Kobe’s the best playing now. You can argue the stat sheet of Lebron but what true star player didn’t have killer instinct. Lebron just has size and speed his skill level is way below Kobe’s. Congrats Kobe

  6. KB *yawn* says:

    KB is the #1 prime example of a volume shooter. This guy has to take 30 to 35 shots a game to get 30 to 35 points 80% of the time. Gee if other players took 30 shots a game they going to have big scoring nights too if not even bigger!! Kb’s fg% for his career at around 44 to 45% is pathetic for a sg that SUPPOSEDLY is great and makes great decisions, has great footwork, blah blah. KB will forever and always be a shot jacker with limited court vision and a misplaced arrogance that he can’t ever trust his teammates. Sad and pathetic.

    • realist says:

      really? is it make up random fact day or something and i just missed the memo?

      so 80% of the time it really takes him 30-35 shots to get 30-35 points?
      wow, people just like to believe random made up facts apparently. I sure hope you aren’t allowed to vote in this country, because it’s scary to think what other rendom made up facts you’re inclined to believe.

      Kobe over the course of his career, yes his career, which would mean 100% of the time, not 20% or 80%, has averaged 19.4 shots per game, and has managed to average 25.3 points per game. Now Jordan on the other hand, who btw averaged 22.9 shots per game, averaged 30.1 points per game. Now here comes the fun, intelligent part…
      22.9-19.4= 3.5
      3.5 X .45 (Kobe’s “pathetic percentage for a shooting guard) = 1.57 more shots made per game. each shot is 2 points.
      thats 3.1 more points per game for his career…
      so now his career would probably be more around 28.4 points per game…
      oh wait but there’s 3 pointers in baskeball… (people tend to forget 3 pointers are factored into FG% not only that but if you shoot 33% form the 3 point line its basically equal to 50% from 2 – 30 3 point shots at 33% means 10 made shots and 30 2 point shots at 50% means 15 made shots and 30 points) Kobe’s career 3 point average happens to be just above…drum roll please… 33%…
      So instead of throwing around complete garbage about 30-35 shots to get 30-35 points. Let’s be real if Kobe took as many shots as Jordan did per game, he would have averaged AT LEAST 28.4 PPG. If not more with 3 pointers factored in.

      oh, also, 238 of Jordan’s 581 career 3 point shots came in two years when the 3 point line was shortened to just within Jordan’s previous shooting range for a few years … (is it a coincidence that suddenly his 3 point percentage skyrocketed when the three point line changed, see this article folks http://pw1.netcom.com/~bjalas/basketball/bulls/3_point_line.htm)

      so lets not get it twisted Jordan’s overinflated scoring averages would have certainly dropped by a point or two for those years and would have adverse affected his career average too.

      One more actual fact for you before I peace out. I leave you with this little nugget of information:
      Jordan scored 1.31 pts per shot for his whole career.
      Kobe has scored 1.30 pts per shot for his career (without the benefit of 2 years of a shortened 3 point line)

      So is Jordan’s average point per shot “pathetic for a shooting guard” too?

  7. CADROY says:

    Steve nice write-up.Kobe is rare breed one of a kind like MJ.He will continue to surprise haters hopefully at east for 5 years to come.

    • LOL says:

      We’ve already seen everything KB’s done in a much more entertaining and effficent manner. His name was MJ. The GOAT

  8. ChocolateThunder says:

    Are you lot kidding me? If anyone here was born in the 80s(89), then you know that few players have played at the level Kobe has been able to play at. So what if he started playing early, 16years of hard NBA basketball (plus that torn ligament in his shooting hand) should wear on a player and yet Kobe just keeps killin’ em… In the post-jordan era, I can think of few players with Kobe’s work ethic and accomplishments… @EddieBurden#24 got it absolutely right. Kobe is quite literally in a league few other guards and even players are at… Now is he a top 5 player of all time? Absolutely not!!! Not because he hasn’t earned that right. But because of the greatness that came before him. Think of Bill Russell’s 11rings, think of Wilt’s 100pt game, history reads well of George Mikan the first real big, the big O’s triple double season… All these guys must be recognized before Kobe. That being said, Kobe definitely rates in MY top 10

    1. MJ
    2. Magic
    3. Bill Russel
    4. Wilt Chamberlain
    5. Kareem
    6. Kobe
    7. Larry Bird
    8. Karl Malone
    9. Shaq
    10. Julius Erving

    None of today’s players are even close. And @GoLA you claim Jordan can’t be compared to Kobe due to the fact that teams were more lopsided based on superstars against regular stars. Jordan killed the careers of most of his draftmates… Against Kobe? Would be the match of the century!!!! Okay like a crazy english man, I’ve rambled on… Kobe is a legend for success at this level!!!

    • KB *yawn* says:

      If KB would’ve played in the 80’s and early 90’s era he would’ve been SMASHED and not been NEAR the player that he is supposedly considered to be right now.

      • Dennis says:

        Dude u have lost your mind Kobe and Chamberlain are the only to player to score 50 plus in 4 consecutive games…not even jordan did that…Also Jordan never came close to Kobe’s 81 points in a game or Kobe setting the record with 12 three’s and 9 consecutive 3’s…and then Kobe is the only player in the Shot Clock Era to out score an entire team (62 points) in 3 quarters ( 33 mins), Kobe sat out the 4th or he would have two 80 point games…And the Mavaricks were only a game away from being the NBA champions that year…..Get real…Kobe is GOAT.

  9. purpleandgold says:

    I am amazed but I am not surprised.. mamba, there goes that Man!!

  10. Go LA says:

    Well…I just want say that I THINK mid 90s the players were too lob sides, there were superstars and regular players, now it’s more even…I don’t think Miami with their 3 stars can be consider the best team in NBA right now. That being said, I don’t think it’s fair to compare Kobe with Jordan, Shaq with Howard. There is too much difference in way the basketbal have evolved that if MJ played now at his prime, he probably couldn’t achieve all his feats…I just like to say, MJ was a great player in his time, and Kobe in his.

    • LOL says:

      You obviously have very limited basketball knowledge. If MJ played today in todays game, his feats would be even greater!! blahahahahahahaha

  11. Bryan says:

    I think we shouldn’t compare players. they have different styles of playing basketball. I have no doubt putting Kobe on the top 5 players of all time. why? he have 5 rings. he had MVP awards(finals mvps, season mvp, all-star mvps). had a carrer high 81 points(second all time). youngest player to reach 28,000 points. what more can you ask? and he scored 48 at the age of 33 at his 16th season with a BAD WRIST people. i’ll say it again, with a BAD WRIST.

  12. Starlin says:

    JORDAN-KOBE, KOBE-JORDAN, IT DOES NOT MATTER, THE TWO GREATEST TO EVER PLAY THE GAME.

    • LOL says:

      Yea right. Kobe isnt even close to MJ, and certainly not the 2nd greatest ever. Far from it

      • LakersWillWin says:

        This LOL guy is pretty annoying.
        When you get to watch Kobe every single night like I do, you really get to see how amazing he is.
        How about you just appreciate greatness instead of hate on it.

      • lakermig says:

        listen dude you dont like kobe fair enough, i mean you must not like bball but fair enough.But why on gods green earth if you dont like him would you even click on an article about him let alone stay commenting like an annoying little schmuck.I dont like dirk nowitski so i dont bloody go reading articles about him let alone read them and stay annoying his fans with my stupid comments.

  13. Will says:

    “Neither will the current NBA Stars accomplish this feat in their 16th Season! Congrats Black Mamba!”

    Especially with a torn ligament in the shooting hand, an injury that would “bench” lesser driven players. I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt Kobe…possibly causing long term injury to his hand.

  14. 2bo says:

    Kobe is had more critiques than any other great player, whatever he does people will always find flaws or things to try to put him down, but what makes Kobe great is that he always shuts the critiques on the court, and he will always will. He has that character that few have, he will find his weaknesses and overcome them, time or age won’t slow him down but make him even better. When they told him he couldn’t shoot 3″s he dropped 13 the next game setting a record, that he wasn’t the greatest scorer ever, what about 81 points? He couldn’t win without Shaq? 2 rings without him… This guy loves the critiques, they make him better, he is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, if not the best. One thing he has though, no one loves the game more than him.

  15. Andreas says:

    Are you kidding me? Isiah Thomas, Pippen, Durant, Barkley and Rose don’t/didn’t even play Two-Guard. All due respect to Wade, but I would never put him above Kobe on that list. Jordan is the greatest Shooting Guard ever, with Kobe in a close second. But hey, that’s my opinion.

  16. look no ones even close to kobe u can say this and that about all the dudes out today but do they truly compare to kobe????think about it really sit and think about it kobes been dominating for years no ones been able to rival him, whos been able to keep up with mamba since hes been around come on people (t mac, vince carter.AI,KG)all came and went, wade lebron durant rose theyre good credits due but to compare with kobe…..gime a fuggin break would you compare them to jordan????NO just Kobe that on its own should be enough shouldn’t it,and kobe is a whole other monster than jordan too….mr.81

  17. Sheed says:

    There is no way that Kobe is a top 5 all time player! If you think he is you shouldnt talk about basketball.

    • Greg says:

      Kobe is a clear contestant. Maybe not yet as a FOR SURE, but soon enough, I think he’ll be able to make it to top-5 all time. And why shouldn’t we talk about basketball? It’s an opinion. I can say that Lebron should be top 5 all-time, would that let me talk about b-ball?

  18. Celticsrck says:

    @DJ3 i dont see nash playin when howards played 16 seasons

  19. Best team ever in all positions:

    Thomas #1
    Jordan#2
    Magic#3
    Bird#4
    Wilt Ch.#5

    Bench: Russel, Duncan, Shaq, Bryant, Cousy.

    • Ruben says:

      lol.. MAGIC as SMALL FORWARD.. are you kidding me??? it’s obviously (seeing your “top lists”) that you are a kiddie or stupid as hell!!!!

  20. Knicks fan says:

    Kobe is a great player. one of the greatest all time but come on this is like hollow credit for kobe.
    kobe started 3 years a head of MJ at 18 (MJ’s 21).
    MJ dropped 43 on New Jersey on the 18th years and that’s he’s after 40 (counting from 1984 when he started)
    i like kobe very much (except when he’s playing knicks) but i don’t think Kobe will be playing when he’s 40
    @40 MJ average 20 a game and 6+ rebounds. 20 a game is better than Dirk, Horward and bosh for this season.
    @age of 33 (current kobe’s age) MJ dropped
    50 on miami and 51 on Knicks (which i think kobe can do it too)

    don’t get me wrong personally i think kobe is second after MJ in all time list but this sound like a cheap credit

    • lakermig says:

      well yeah thats why mj is the GOAT but kobe is a close second and he can hit those numbers and prob will this year and also kobe will prob not be playing at age 40 cause pretty much no one does and he would be in his 23rd nba season if he does i dont think anyones ever done that

  21. Top list number 2:

    Iverson
    Reggie Miller
    Ray Allen
    Penny Hardaway at his best
    Oscar Robertson never see him play. I only I have seen Nba since 80´s.

  22. Tough debate. I believe that Kobe Bryant is behind Shaq but ahead from Drexler.
    If we make a list of top five # 2 position ever that would be my list because rings and showtime:

    I Thomas
    Michael Jordan
    D Wade
    Drexler
    Pippen, Durant, and Kobe Bryant.

    Consider Barkley, Drose, Carter ,

    • abs says:

      Pippen, Durant, Barkley are all forwards.

    • lakermig says:

      how can you seriously put d.wade and durant (good as they may be) in the same sentences with thomas,drexler,pippen. Its still too early to add them to any greats they haven’t hit any sort of landmarks not in overall scoring,championships not even leadership in their own teams

  23. Kobe’s too old, he shoots to much, he’s selfish…..blah blah blah… I am soo sick and tired of double standards with kobe. He shots a lot and they lose, he is a selfish player. He shots a lot and they win he is MJ. I mean you just had a blog on him shooting to much and now he just 48 (you know he had to shoot a lot to get 48) he is the greatest.lol It’s a joke. And for him to be ranked 7th!??? Come on people! Chis Paul was even ahead of him?! He hasn’t even made it to the western conf. finals. I mean Rose is better than him. Kobe should be in the top 3 period!

    • Wilder says:

      very, very well said! agreed 110%!

    • abs says:

      Every player has bad shooting games. I remember Mj shot 6/27 against indian in 1995. So don’t BS about stuff you don;t know. He had a couple of bad games , but last 5 games he been playing incredible. Also last four years kobe been to the finals three times and won twice. he average plus 25 points in each and every season and in the playoffs those stats rise.
      In last five years he has won 2 championships,one MVP,2MVP all-star game, 2MVP finals and is the youngest player to reach 28,000. So yeah i think he is one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

  24. Eddie Burden#24 says:

    There’s a reason he’s the only person to reach this feat. His work ethic has been the same throughout his entire career, he’s took care of his body. He’s been the most win driven player for the last decade, and he reaps the benefits from his pride and his hatred for losing.

    Kobe Bryant IS one of the top 5 players to ever play the game of basketball…
    Michael Jordan
    Kobe Bryant
    Magic Johnson
    Larry Bird
    Bill Russell

    Top 5, in order ^

    • lakermig says:

      i agree theres no he can be in the arguement …he is the second best player to ever play the game iin my opinion and if you are not a laker or kobe fan youd just be a moron not to admit hes at least in the top 5

  25. Show-B says:

    I’m a huge Kobe fan, but you’re missing some data: MJ scored 40+ three times after he turned 40, not in a 16th season, it was in his 15th and not consecutive, but he really was old. Kobe is just 33, at the same age MJ won his fourth ring

    • Mike says:

      True but i think the main part that people forget is that he has a torn ligament in his wrist, and i may be wrong but i doubt i will see anyone at any age accomplish what kobe did with a torn ligament in their wrist. The 16th season thing is just the cherry on top.

  26. ExplicitPro8298 says:

    Absolutely amazing!

  27. Foxmalo says:

    Neither will the current NBA Stars accomplish this feat in their 16th Season! Congrats Black Mamba!

    • DJ3 says:

      LeBron, Wade, Rose, Howard, heck even Melo and Amare COULD do it. Its a great feat, but in todays NBA, it will probably be done more than once.

      • Eddie Burden#24 says:

        I don’t see Amare even being in the league when he’s 33 years old, well nowhere near his current calibur if he is.
        LeBron James won’t be capable of scoring like that after 16 years, he’s strong and muscular right now, but all that weight will come back to haunt him as he gets older. Dwayne Wade has had MAJOR injuries and he wont make it in this league for 16 years… Carmelo is just like Vince Carter of the early 2000s, over-rated would be an understatement. Kobe Bryant is in the twilight of his career and he’s still a better player than an IN HIS PRIME Carmelo Anthony, and Melo won’t be as productive at Kobes age.

        Derrick Rose lives off his athletic abilities, much like Kobe did when he first entered the league. But Kobe added so much components to his game, that he didn’t need his athletics to carry him anymore. Derrick Rose will have to learn to adapt like Kobe, or he’ll be out the league in about 8 years, just like Allen Iverson.

      • DJ3 says:

        Alright, but what about Howard? Like Kareem and Shaq he has a height advantage in the post, has been relatively healthy, and is a great rebounder and scorer. If he can play with someone like Nash or Rondo in his 16th season, he could easily get 40+.

      • Eddie Burden#24 says:

        The thing is… Dwight HAS NEVER been a high scorer like that, he gets 40 on rare occasions, I cant name very many times he has. Whats so special about scoring 48 points if you’re living off the efforts of a PG? What makes that special at all? Kobe does all his scoring off the dribble, running off screens, faking out the defender, hitting shots that have a very high degree of difficulty.

        Dwight Howard isn’t a top notch scorer, never has, and it’s not going to change if he goes to a different team. He gobbles up rebounds and gets put-backs. He’s a 20-20 player, but he’s not going to drop 48 points after 16 years in the league.
        He rarely does that now, he can’t do it later. I’d honestly prefer to keep Andrew Bynum over Howard. Bynum isn’t as good defensively, but offensively he runs circles around Howard.

      • Greg says:

        Lebron isn’t that kind of off the dribble player like Bryant. He’ll get high 30s no doubt, but when hes in his 16th season, he will begin to feel father time.

      • lakermig says:

        howard ??? he scored a career high of 45 so kobe at 33 still scored more than dwights most ever as for lebron,wade and melo lets just say at pretty much their age kobe was droppin 81 son. and further more lebron and wade rely nearly completley on youth and athleticism once that goes you can forget them hitting 30 let alone 48 melo has the best chance from the ones you mentioned cause he has the most all round skill and i still highly doubt it.