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Projecting Kobe: How high the numbers?

1/28/2010

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Kobe en route to two of his 26 Tuesday night in Washington, en route to becoming the leading scorer in the history of the franchise.

After dropping 26 points on the Wizards Tuesday night in Washington, Kobe Bryant is now 101 points away from passing Jerry West for the all time lead in Lakers franchise history. As I noted yesterday, points is only one of many Lakers records Bryant seems sure to hold before he hangs up his Nike's, given he's already near or even at the top of many franchise lists and certainly seems spry enough to keep playing for a few more years.

So what will his numbers look like when it's over?

Unfortunately, such figuring requires figurin', which we don't do. Fortunately, ESPN.com's John Hollinger does, so Land O'Lakers asked him to put on his work hat, fire up the supercomputers at his secret underground lair (located in- under, technically- the same gated community as Superman's Fortress of Solitude) and do some projections similar to those he used determining the odds of Kobe catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA's all time points crown (Insider required. For the methodology, see the table at right.)

Projecting Kobe: The Formula

Remaining seasons = (42 - Age)/2.2

Age is as of Dec. 31 of current season

HeightDiff = Absolute value of (Height in inches - 82)

Adjusted Remaining Seasons (ARS) = Remaining Seasons * (60 - HeightDiff)/55)

Established level = ((Year1*3) + (Year2*2) + (Year3))/6

Year 1=Total in category for current (or most recent) season

Year 2=Total in category for previous season

Year 3=Total in category for second previous season

His forecast for Kobe's final numbers:

Field Goals- 12,924

Field Goal Attempts- 27,295

Free Throws- 8,985

Free Throw Attempts- 10,697

3-Point Field Goals- 1,847

3-Point Field Goals Attempted- 5,461

Offensive Rebounds- 1,662

Defensive Rebounds- 5,890

Total Rebounds- 7,552

Assists- 6,624

Turnovers- 4,073

Blocked Shots- 710

Steals-2,209

Points- 36,681

Field Goal Percentage
- 47.3%

Free Throw Percentage
- 84.0%

3-Point Field Goal Percentage
- 33.8%



Hollinger bases his Kobe Kalculations on about five season's worth of current-level production. This isn't to say Bryant will only play five more seasons. Writes J.H. in the Kobe/KAJ piece linked above: "We're estimating how many equivalent years of production to expect. For example, if the formula says a player has four seasons of his current production remaining, that production could well happen over a period of eight seasons, thanks to age, injuries and whatever other deleterious effects Father Time throws at him." Seems reasonable enough to me, particularly since the hat I wear to work doesn't leave me confident in debating the formula.

I understand, as well, the numbers he produced were the mid-point of Hollinger's projections, meaning in half of the estimated outcomes Kobe's numbers are higher, in half they're lower. Lakers fans will likely bump the stats, since Kobe never seems to settle for the mid-point of anything.

However you slice it, the figures are a great starting point to see where Kobe would land across the franchise record books. Based on the projections:

Points-

1. Kobe Bryant: 36,681

2. Jerry West: 25,192

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 24,176

Field Goals-

1. Kobe Bryant: 12,924

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 9,935

3. Jerry West: 9,016

3-Point Field Goals-

1. Kobe Bryant: 1,847

2. Nick Van Exel: 750

(Note: Derek Fisher is currently third on this list at 725, making it all but certain he'll move into second place... but he's not catching Kobe without a getting on a really, really hot streak.)

Total Rebounds-

1. Elgin Baylor: 11,463

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 10,279

3. Kobe Bryant: 7,552

4. Magic Johnson: 6,559

Assists-

1. Magic Johnson: 10,141

2. Kobe Bryant: 6,624

3. Jerry West: 6,238

Steals-

1. Kobe Bryant: 2,209

2. Magic Johnson: 1,724

Blocked Shots-

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 2,694

2. Shaquille O'Neal: 1,278

3. Elden Campbell: 1,022

4. Vlade Divac: 834

5. Kobe Bryant: 710

6. James Worthy: 624

And while Hollinger didn't include them, using the "five season's worth" baseline, I think I can fill in the blanks regarding games and minutes played. Remember, if these seem off, blame me, not him.

Games (adding 36 more for this year, then five years worth of full seasons)-

1. Kobe Bryant: 1,433

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1,093

Minutes (using his average for this year to finish '09-'10, the average of the previous three seasons to add five more, and a heavy dose of "close enough")-

1. Kobe Bryant: 53,120

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 37,492

And so on and so forth.

Obviously more goes into determining the G.L.O.A.T. than the simple accruing of numbers, but stats are rightly a big part of the equation. Bottom line, if there's a counting stat to be counted, Kobe either owns it or rents the penthouse. (Including minutes and games, which obviously go a long way towards explaining the numbers. That, and Kobe being, really good and stuff.) Even if they don't change your opinion on the Greatest Laker today or won't down the road, it's still fun to kick this stuff around.