Updated: December 20, 2012, 1:13 AM ET

Around The Association

Blame It On Kobe?

By Chris Broussard
ESPN The Magazine
lastname
Bryant

What Kobe Bryant is doing this season is both phenomenal and unprecedented. No player in NBA history -- not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not Moses Malone, not Karl Malone, not any of the league's famed ironmen -- have come close to scoring as Bryant has in his 17th professional season.

Heck, most greats -- guys like Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Jerry West -- didn't even play 17 seasons.

So for Bryant to be leading the league in scoring at a 29.5 ppg clip while shooting a career-high 47.7 percent from the floor is nothing short of incredible. Before Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar had been the gold standard for well-worn scorers, averaging 23.4 points in his 17th season. But Abdul-Jabbar, who was 38 during that season, was clearly not near his prime, averaging just 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, well below his career averages of 11.2 and 2.6.

Bryant, while not the athlete he once was, is still producing at the same level he always has, posting 5.2 rebounds (5.3 is his career average), 5.0 assists (4.7 career) and 1.6 steals (1.5 career).

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The Bucks: Respectable To A Fault

By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
lastname
Jennings

The most vital tasks for any NBA franchise can be boiled down to recruitment and/or retention.

We can talk about the culture of an organization, its commitment to player development, and a ton of other ancillary qualities -- all of which have real value to a franchise. But ultimately, success comes down to a team's ability to recruit the best talent, either through the draft or free agency, and retain those players' services when they reach free agency. With precious few exceptions, teams need stars (preferably superstars) to contend, and if you're not putting at least one on the floor, the ceiling for success is limited.

Fans in big coastal markets can't really grasp how tough the Milwaukee Bucks have it in this regard. Milwaukee is a small, cold-weather market in an era when NBA players are more mindful than ever about what kind of city they want to live in and use as a platform to build a personal brand. For reasons fair -- and probably also a little unfair -- that recruitment and retention piece is a tough nut for the Bucks.

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