Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 4/21/13

Before Kobe Bryant went down with a torn left Achilles on April 12th, he was enjoying one of the most historic and unprecedented seasons in NBA history. Now at 34 years of age, Kobe has spent half of his life playing professional basketball; he was just two games away from completing his 17th season when it was abruptly cut short in the waning minutes against the Golden State Warriors on April 12. Seventeen seasons is a long time in the NBA. Out of the thousands of players to have played in the Association over the years, only 43 have totaled 17 seasons or more. Of those 43 players, only eight of them are currently on an active roster: Jason Kidd (40), Juwan Howard (40), Grant Hill (40), Steve Nash (39), Derek Fisher (38), Ray Allen (37), Kevin Garnett (36), and Bryant (34). And while Bryant is the youngest player on that list, he has some of the most mileage, and his 1,239 games played (22nd all-time) ranks third behind only Jason Kidd’s 1,389 and Kevin Garnett’s 1,322.  So just how historic has Kobe Bryant’s season been? Well, there are two ways to look at it: 1.  Total Seasons Played 2.  Age   FIRST METRIC: TOTAL SEASONS PLAYED First, we’ll look at seasons played and those 43 players who have logged 17 seasons or more. Of those 43 players, only seven of them had a Player Efficiency Rating greater than 20.0 in their 17th season: Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kevin Garnett. Now that we’ve narrowed it down to a statistically similar group, let’s compare all of their 17th seasons:   PLAYER PER PPG RPG APG K. Bryant 23.0 27.3 5.6 6.0 K. Abdul-Jabbar 22.7 23.4 6.1 3.5 S. O’Neal 22.3 17.8 8.4 1.7 J. Stockton 22.3 11.5 2.8 8.7 K. Malone 21.1 22.4 8.6 4.3 H. Olajuwon 20.7 11.9 7.4 1.2 K. Garnett 20.4 15.8 8.2 2.9   Using our first metric and comparing Kobe’s 17th season to the 17th season of the remaining players, we see that Bryant ends up leading the way in points per game and is second in assists per game. He comes up sixth in rebounding, but that’s almost entirely because he’s one of only guards on the list. Most importantly, he ranks first in terms PER (player efficiency rating).   SECOND METRIC: AGE Moving onto our second metric, we can compare Kobe’s season at age 34 to the other greats at age 34. Unfortunately, there’s no easy to way to find a list of all the professional basketball players who played at 34 and their numbers. So this comparison was a matter of manually sifting through various statistical databases. Ultimately, what I’ve done is used the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and compared their statistics recorded at age 34, regardless of how many seasons or games they had played. Despite the fact that the list was formulated in 1996, it’s fairly comprehensive, because almost all of the players that don’t appear on that list (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, etc) aren’t yet 34. In addition to that list of 50, I’ve included Tim Duncan, Gary Payton, Reggie Miller, and Paul Pierce. So, how does Kobe’s season at 34 years of age compare to 54 of the NBA’s greatest players at that same age?   PLAYER PER PPG RPG APG K. Malone 27.9 27.0 10.3 3.9 M. Jordan 25.2 28.7 5.8 3.5 D. Robinson 24.6 17.8 9.6 1.8 K. Abdul-Jabbar 23.4 23.9 8.7 3.0 J. West 23.2 22.8 4.2 8.8 K. Bryant 23.0 27.3 5.6 6.0 H. Olajuwon 22.7 23.2 9.2 3.0 J. Stockton 22.1 14.4 2.8 10.5 T. Duncan 21.9 13.4 8.9 2.7 S. O’Neal 21.7 17.3 7.4 2.0 C. Barkley 21.6 15.2 11.7 3.2 P. Ewing 21.3 22.4 10.7 2.0 G. Payton 21.1 20.4 4.2 9.6 E. Baylor 20.7 24.8 10.6 5.4 W. Chamberlain 20.3 20.7 18.2 4.3 L. Wilkens 20.3 18.0 4.2 9.6 M. Malone 20.2 18.9 10.0 1.6 J. Irving 20.0 20.0 5.3 3.0   Similar to our first metric, those who had a PER of 20.0 or higher made the list, which narrowed it down to 18 total players. Looking at the statistics of those 18 basketball legends, Bryant’s season ranks 6th in terms of PER, at 23.0. Not only that, his 27.3 points per game this season were the second highest for any 34-year-old player ever, behind only His Airness.   IN CONCLUSION There’s always going to be heavy debate about Kobe Bryant’s legacy and where he ranks among the greatest players of all-time. I won’t make any arguments about Bryant’s overall place in history, but it is clear to me that I have witnessed one of the greatest – if not the greatest – offensive season by a basketball player of Kobe’s age. Depending on how you look at it, there isn’t a single professional basketball player who has played as many games as Bryant while putting up his kind of numbers (Michael Jordan only played 1,072 games). But there have been five players who have had more spectacular numbers (based on PER) at age 34, two of whom are guards like Bryant: Jordan and Jerry West. That’s impressive company. But PER isn’t everything. For one final comparison, we’ll take one more look at West’s 1972-73 season and Jordan’s 1997-98 season up against Bryant’s latest year:   PLAYER PPG RPG APG eFG% TS% K. Bryant 27.3 5.6 6.0 50.4 57.0 M. Jordan 28.7 5.8 3.5 47.3 53.3 J. West 22.8 4.2 8.8 47.9 53.3   In our last table, I also added in effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage, which takes into account 3-point shooting and free throw shooting (bear in mind that for Jerry West’s season, the NBA had not introduced the 3-point shot). As you can see, Kobe was actually a slightly better shooter this season than both Jordan and West were at 34, further demonstrating the impressive and historic year Bryant had. Ultimately, only time will tell if Kobe can recover from his Achilles injury. He’ll have to dip into the Fountain of Youth one more time, but as he’s shown this season and throughout the latter part of his career, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility. The post Breaking down Kobe Bryant’s historic 17th season appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charges

Report: Clippers ‘overwhelming favorite’ to keep Chris Paul

Giants owner: Signing Kaepernick would anger fans

Mike Trout to undergo MRI after suffering thumb injury

John Wall: Bench was cause of Wizards’ ‘downfall’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Arum says Pacquiao would fight McGregor if Mayweather won't

Aaron Judge hits first grand slam of his career

David Stern: Lakers could have had Chris Paul, GM panicked

Brandon Jacobs vows to 'expose' Jim Harbaugh, get him fired

Mike Zimmer won’t retire even if right eye goes blind

Kevin Love responds to Draymond Green’s ‘annihilation’ trash talk

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker