Nearly everyone around the Lakers remain optimistic that Kobe Bryant will return to full form next season.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sounded pretty skeptical in a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper that Bryant will come close toward surpassing his NBA all-time leading scorer mark (38,387 points). The reasons go beyond Bryant ranking fourth overall with 31,700 points, trailing Abdul-Jabbar’s mark by 6,687 points and needing to average at least 40.7 points presuming he plays all 82 games through the 2015-16 season and retires in what would mark a 20-year career with the Lakers.
“It’s going to be tough. The problem for him is if he’s going to break the record, he would have be the focus of the offense,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “His body is breaking down. It’s tough. Why would these guys want to play that long? They make so much money? I wouldn’t play that long.”
Actually, Abdul-Jabbar did.
He played 20 NBA seasons that included five of his six NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers along with six MVPS, an accomplishment he credited toward offseason training and using a distinguishable skyhook that both minimized his body getting bruised and maximizing his scoring efficiency. Abdul-Jabbar praised how Bryant has taken care of his body, ranging from having an innovative procedure three years ago in Germany on his right knee, shedding 16 pounds last year and fighting through injuries. But Bryant missed the first 19 games of this season rehabbing his left Achilles tendon and then appeared in only six contests before fracturing his left knee that ultimately kept him out the rest of the way.
“Kobe is very dedicated that way. He’s worked on his body, but he’s having major failures and not just minor stuff,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Spontaneously breaking a bone is not a good sign.”
Bryant and those around him have maintained that a full seven months of offseason training will enable him to play more at full strength next season. Last offseason, Bryant spent most of his time rehabbing his left Achilles tendon and did not proceed to on-court workouts until after training camp started. Still, Abdul-Jabbar suggested something that will surely rile Bryant up.
“What he does he have to prove? At this point, he should worry about being able to walk around and do normal things for the rest of his life,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He’s very wealthy and achieved everything in his profession. What does he have to worry about? He can walk away and be satisfied. He has the jewelry and the stats.”
Bryant hardly seems satisfied with five NBA titles considering other legends have more, including Bill Russell (11), Michael Jordan (six) and Abdul-Jabbar (six). Bryant also could climb up on the NBA’s scoring list past Jordan (32,292 points).
“That’s the mark of someone who is dedicated to the game,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
But apparently not enough to leave him optimistic on Bryant’s future.
Could anyone top Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring mark?
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org