Having scored 32,262 points in his career, Kobe Bryant is just 31 points away from surpassing Michael Jordan as the No.3 scorer in NBA history. As the best scorers of their generations, the Los Angeles Lakers' star and the six-time champion are often compared to one another.
The careers of Bryant and Jordan are similar in a lot of ways. Both shooting guards, they shared many of the same skills in their prime, boasting an elite dunking ability and a strong mid-range game, while possessing no better than an average three-point shot. Bryant has five rings compared to Jordan’s six, but his seven NBA Finals appearances are one more than the Chicago Bulls legend.
Jordan is viewed by many as the greatest player of all time, but now that Bryant is about to pass him in the record books, how does the L.A. guard compare to Jordan as a scorer?
In terms of efficiency, the two players are very similar. Jordan has a slight edge, averaging 1.314 points per shot throughout his career, compared to Bryant’s average of 1.301. Jordan’s field goal percentage (49.7) was consistently better than Bryant’s (45.2), but the Lakers’ guard has benefited from making 0.8 more three-pointers per game.
While few players in NBA history have been better scorers than Bryant, Jordan is clearly one of them. Bryant will finish with a higher scoring total because he is already in his 19th NBA season, and two Jordan retirements had him on the floor for just 15 years. Jordan’s 30.12 points per game is No.1 all time, compared to Bryant’s 25.46, which ranks 1oth. Jordan was also a much better scorer than the rest of his peers, compiling 10 scoring titles to Bryant’s two.
Bryant’s career numbers would look better next to Jordan’s had he gone to college. Playing 71 games as a rookie out of high school, Bryant scored 7.6 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting. After three years at North Carolina, Jordan was much more ready for the NBA, averaging 28.2 points per game on 51.5 percent shooting.
As Bryant prepares to pass Jordan in the record books, his numbers suggest that he is no longer an elite scorer, despite leading the league with 25.5 points per game in the 2014-2015 season. He's shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field.
Considering Bryant has scored at least 31 points in six games, it’s possible for him to surpass Jordan on Friday night when the Lakers visit the San Antonio Spurs. The more likely opportunity might come two days later when L.A. visits the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bryant scored just nine points on 1-of-14 shooting in the Lakers’ only matchup with the Spurs this year.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. Karl Malone is second with 36,928 points.