And then there were five.
Kobe Bean Bryant has scaled the 30,000 career points mountain; Kareem, Wilt, The Mailman, and His Airness now have studded company. He is the youngest, but yet the slowest, to reach the coveted mark, needing a whole three seasons more than Jordan to do it. Still, it certainly adds to the pedigree of his legacy, and to his nomination as a top-10 player, if not teammate, in league history.
The second-best shooting guard of all time is having one of his best years at the age of 34. He has averaged more than 28.4 PPG―his current clip―just 4 other times in his career, and is doing it at a better true shooting percentage than ever before, at 61.1. He is currently clocking in 48.8% from the field, 39.4% from behind the 3-point line, and an impressive 87.1% from the charity stripe. But while his legacy marinates in the shadow of other greats, a more relevant number needs to be discussed: 45.
No, not the second coming of Michael Jordan. 45 percent is the current winning percentage for the star-studded L.A. Lakers. At 9 and 11, they certainly need emergency service considering that they currently trail the Houston Rockets. More alarming is that after the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers are 1-8 when Kobe scores more than 30 points. To put that into perspective, they are 8-3 when he scores, and so shoots, less. An 8 and 3 record is a 72.7 winning percentage, .5 better than Miami’s at 13-5 and would put them at fourth in the Western Conference―a better reflection of the level of talent playing for the 16-time champions.
While not all of the team’s woes can be pinned to the Black Mamba, the numbers do indicate a trend that should be looked into. People have blamed Pau Gasol, the Princeton offense, a lack of Steve Nash, Jim Buss’ snub of supposed rival Phil Jackson, and now the offense-obsessed D’Antoni system for L.A.’s woes, but have not given any interest to the 1-8 emergency flare. Given Kobe’s recent milestone, a hyper-efficient year, MVP consideration, and the league’s 11-best +/- output at a plus-131, no one has looked at Bryant’s contribution to a disappointing season thus far.
It really is a strange phenomenon as the Lakers rank fifth in OffRtg with 105.5 and eight in DefRtg with 99.3, and are one of four teams to rank in the top 10 on both portions of the court. And despite some apparent words between Dwight Howard and No. 24 regarding defensive rotations, Kobe offers better defensive numbers for the Lakers when on the floor (allowing 97.8 points per 100 possessions) than the big man (99.5).
The Lakers’ state of affairs in correlation to Kobe’s field goal attempts has been studied before by the Wall Street Journal. Those results made it pretty clear that the Los Angeles Lakers usually fare better when the future HOF limits his shots, but others have taken contention to the claim. David Friedman calls field goal attempts a “noisy” statistic considering that they tell nothing of the shots’ or the player’s in-game value. Friedman has also broken down L.A’s winning ratio to be 16-7, when Bryant has scored 50 or more points, which seems to contradict the “lower field attempts” theory.
Still the question remains: is Kobe Bryant hurting his team by scoring so many points? There seems to be a missing link in his points output and his team’s success, and it might have to do with an uncategorized statistic.
When you accuse your teammates of wearing the wrong type of pants, or of kicking your teammates’ asses if they don’t improve, perhaps Kobe Bryant might bring about his own game-changing rule, a la Jordan or Wilt, except his will do more with off-court intimidation of teammates and opposing players, than on-court supremacy.