Three is the number of the day on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Lakers have to opportunity to win their third game in a row for the first time this season, but that’s not why the number three is important.
Kobe Bryant, likely in the first half, will move past Michael Jordan into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. With his eighth point against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bryant will tie Jordan. With his ninth point, no. 24 will pass no. 23.
Jordan will forever sit at 32,292 points, while Bryant will continue increasing his total as long as his body and mind both remain on board with the wear and tear of the NBA. The comparisons in both style and substance are inevitable and necessary, but Bryant passing Jordan should provide perspective on how great a career the kid from Italy by way of Philadelphia has constructed to this point rather than simply comparing Jordan and Bryant head-to-head.
Dressed in purple and gold for his 19th straight season, Bryant is in past the quarter pole in what has been presented as his penultimate year as a pro.
When Jordan scored the last of his 32,292 points, he was a 40-year-old wearing gym shorts with a wizard on them. Bryant is a spry 36-year-old looking like he has plenty left in the tank--especially if the Lakers actually get around to cutting his minutes. Jordan on the Washington Wizards as a 40-year-old is a memory most would rather forget, but he did once score 43 points as a 40-year-old. Watching this, one can instantly imagine Bryant smiling and thinking about the prospect of scoring 44 points as a 40-year-old.
After passing Jordan, Bryant looks ahead to former teammate Karl Malone. Malone scored 36,928 points over his 19-year career. The “Mail Man” was a physically gifted 41-year-old in his final season, which was his only season with the Lakers.
Averaging 25 points per game, Bryant would need 186 games to pass Malone on the list. That means that the “Black Mamba” would be 45 games shy of passing Malone when his contract expires in 2016. However, should Bryant follow suit with the other three mean closest to him on the all-time scoring list and play until age 40, he would easily catch Malone and even have a realistic chance at finishing as the leading scorer in the history of the NBA.
Worth noting, Lakers coach Byron Scott and Lakers president Jeanie Buss have previously publicly stated that they have hopes the veteran will play beyond his current contract.
Averaging 25 points per game, Bryant enters Sunday’s historic contest in Minneapolis 245 games away from the master of the sky hook. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was age 42 when he left the sport in 1989. The task of catching Malone seems reasonable and attainable, and even reaching Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points appears plausible.
Averaging 25 points per game and playing all 82 games in every season, Bryant would catch Abdul-Jabbar in the 22nd game of the 2017-18 season. He would only be a 39-year-old. If he played at age 40 like the other three guys in the top four, Bryant would have a legitimate opportunity to become the first player to 40,000 points.
The fact that this discussion is possible should explain exactly how different Bryant will be to Jordan by the time no. 24 hangs it up in the rafters.
The Lakers and Timberwolves tip off at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time.