Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers will have an incredibly tough decision to make come July if able to stay healthy throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. Bryant has been adamant over the last few months that he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll retire or attempt to extend his NBA career next summer.
The majority of Lakers fans are hoping Bryant can stay healthy and return for a 21st season with the team. Kobe coming back for another 82-game ride with the Lakers is a likely scenario if his body holds up, but some believe it’ll be time to walk away from the game.
In a recent interview with John Hareas of NBA.com, Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was asked whether he believes Bryant will be playing beyond this season:
Kobe Bryant will play beyond this season: True of False?
One of the reasons Bryant may have initially wanted to play as long as possible was to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Kobe moved up to third on the all-time list last season passing Michael Jordan and now is sitting at 32,482 career points, but Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) are still way ahead of him.
Although Bryant was thought to have a chance to at least match Malone and potentially make a run at Kareem’s point total, it no longer seems possible even if Kobe were to extend his career another two years. Abdul-Jabbar was also asked whether anyone would pass him on the list of the NBA’s elite scorers, via Hareas:
Will anyone break your all-time scoring mark?
KAJ: I know it can be done but they are gonna have to play a long time
Bryant is the only active player in the league within striking distance of Malone and Kareem. Although Dirk Nowitzki (28,119) is at number seven on the all-time scoring list and will likely pass former Laker Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) at number six, the Dallas Mavericks star forward probably won’t get much higher than that. Wilt Chamberlain is ahead of Shaq at number four with 31,419 points.
There’s currently eight players in the in the top 25 of the NBA’s all-time scoring list including Bryant and Nowitzki. Tim Duncan (14), Kevin Garnett (15), Paul Pierce (16), LeBron James (20), Ray Allen (22) and Vince Carter (25) have all cracked the top 25, but outside of LeBron, none of these active players have a real shot of breaking into top five or higher.