Marc Stein: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Can Kobe catch Kareem?

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
3:29
PM ET
Maybe it's not the first question that comes to mind in the wake of Kobe Bryant's freshly signed two-year contract extension with the Lakers. But it's up there.

Does Kobe have any shot at passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring lead now that he's committed to playing two seasons beyond this one?

Answer: The math is stacked heavily against him.

When he likely returns from his Achilles tear in December, Bryant starts anew precisely 6,770 points behind Kareem in the all-time scoring race.

If you're willing to project that he stays reasonably healthy for the remainder of his extended deal -- which assumes 60 games this season and 75 games in each of the next two seasons -- Bryant would still need to average 32.2 points per game over that span to overtake Captain Skyhook's 38,387 career points.

Forgetting for a moment that Dominique Wilkins is pretty much the only player in league history who has ever bounced back from an Achilles tear to an All-Star level -- or the fact that we're never supposed to tell Kobe that there's something he can't do -- this is where I have to point out Bryant has averaged better than 30 points per game for a season only three times in his career.

You have to dial all the way back to 2005-06 for his most prolific season: 35.4 points per game.

The conclusion, then, should be pretty clear. Kobe is realistically going to have to stick around for at least one more season beyond the new extension to have real hope of catching Kareem. A 21st NBA season would make the math much friendlier, but Bryant would have to be superhuman, on a surgically repaired heel, if he calls it a day after an even 20.

Assuming you, like me, were curious.

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