OKLAHOMA CITY — As his career continues to wind down, Kobe Bryant’s managed to squeeze more out of his aging 34-year-old body.
He still leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.5 points per game. Bryant’s 49 percent mark from the field represents his highest shooting percentage in his entire 17-year career. And serving as a further reminder of his greatness, Bryant just became the fifth player – and the youngest one – to exceed 30,000 career points.
But as the Lakers (9-10) play the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4) tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Bryant will see another player he admits could challenge his scoring total. Thunder forward Kevin Durant trails second behind Bryant in scoring (26.5), but could he eventually score 30,000 career points?
“If he continues to fill them up the way he has been, I think he can,” Bryant said. “I’m not really a mathematical person by any stretch of the imagination. So I can’t calculate how many years it will and what he will need to average. But it seems possible.”
No worries. Plenty, including yours truly, will do the number-crunching for Bryant.
Through six NBA seasons, Durant has posted 10,481 points. Durant currently has 19,519 points to reach that 30,000 point plateau. Assuming Durant stays mostly healthy for his career and hovers around his career 26.3 points per game average, Durant will have scored 23,903 additional points by the end of his 17th season. In fact, that would put Durant with 34,384 points, far exceeding the pace Bryant scored. Bryant scored at a higher pace, posting 10,658 points his first six seasons. It would’ve been higher if not for the 1999 lockout shortened season or spending his rookie season as a bench player.
How things have changed since then. The 24-year-old Durant affectionally called Bryant an “old fart.” Bryant laughed and said “that’s about accurate” before sharing nickname he has for Durant is “Similac,” a brand of baby formula.
Days before, Bryant saw both Durant and Russell Westbrook as players with similar characteristics as himself.
“You feel proud about it because you feel you leave the game in good hands,” Bryant said. “You’ve done more than just score points and win championships. But you helped lead the next generation.”
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