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History was made in New Orleans this week.
And no, I'm not talking about the Hornets' decision to change their name to the Pelicans in 2013-14 (good luck with that).
With 1:15 remaining in the second quarter Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant notched his 30,000th and 30,001st career points. The basket came on a short floater about three feet in front of the hoop. Bryant finished the evening with 29 points, giving the 14-time All- Star 30,016 for his career.
Bryant (league-leading 28 ppg this season) is just the fifth-player ever to reach this milestone. Considering that Bryant is 5,463 points ahead of Kevin Garnett, who is second on the active scoring list with 24,553 career points, it should be a long time before we see another player crack the 30,000 point threshold.
It's quite an accomplishment and it begs the question, how exactly did Kobe get there? Let's take a look.
Consistency: A lot has changed in Los Angeles since Bryant arrived in 1996. Back then, Del Harris was the coach, Phil Jackson was in Chicago and the team was still playing its home games at The Forum.
The one thing that has stayed constant in L.A. is Bryant's ability to put the ball in the hoop. Bryant, a 25.4 ppg scorer for his career (10th all-time), has averaged at least 25 ppg every season since 2005-2006. The only time in the last decade Bryant failed to reach that mark was in 2004-05. That's also the only season the Lakers have missed the playoffs since drafting Bryant in 1996.
Durability: Maybe the key to scoring 30,000 points is just staying healthy.
By staying on the court, Bryant has maximized his ability to produce points. Bryant has had concussions, a broken nose and multiple sprained ankles throughout his career but he's mostly been able to avoid major injuries. He's been on the floor for 1,180 of a possible 1,283 games (92 percent of the Lakers' games) during his tenure in Los Angeles, never missing more than 17 games in one season. The year he missed the most action was in 2003-04 while he was in court for a sexual assault case (the charges were later dropped).
Bryant, who is averaging 36.5 minutes per game for his career, has also managed to stay out of foul trouble for the most part. He hasn't fouled out since a loss to Charlotte on January 27, 2009 and has only been disqualified for going over the foul limit 21 times in his 17-year career (1.8 percent of his games).
Free-throw shooting: While perhaps not as dominant as Ray Allen or Steve Nash, Bryant has been a very accurate free-throw shooter throughout his career. He's knocked in 83.8 percent of his attempts for his career and is fourth all-time in free throws made (he's seventh in attempts). Bryant has only had one season where he shot below 81 percent from the line and that was back in 1997-98 when Kobe was just 19 years old.
Think of it this way. If Shaquille O'Neal had made 83.8 percent of his free throws along the way, he'd be at 32,090 career points, putting him just 202 points behind Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. Instead, he made only 52.7 percent and is sixth all-time behind Bryant.
A bit of a selfish streak: NBA analyst Tim Legler said this of Bryant Thursday on ESPN's "First Take": "Kobe Bryant [believes] that a bad shot from him [is] better than anybody else on the floor."
Kobe's three favorite hobbies are shooting, shooting and more shooting. And if a genie ever granted him three wishes the first two would be for more shots and the third would be for more wishes.
Bryant didn't get to 30,000 points by being efficient. He is the ultimate volume scorer. He has finished in the top three in the league in field goal attempts per game every season since 2005-06 and is seventh all-time with 23,071 career shot attempts. If you remember his 81-point performance against Toronto in January of 2006, Bryant fired up an astounding 46 shots in 42 minutes of action. My arms are getting weak just thinking about taking that many shots.
While Bryant detractors (like ESPN's Skip Bayless) enjoy labeling him as "the most selfish player in the history of basketball," in many ways, Kobe's selfish streak is also one of his biggest assets.
He got some help from Garnett: While at age 34, Bryant is technically the youngest player ever to amass 30,000 points, it took him more games to get there than it did for Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. That's because Bryant was drafted straight out of high school, while Jordan and Chamberlain both spent three years in college.
For many years, NBA teams only chose college and international players in drafts, which would have made Bryant's jump to the NBA at age 17 nearly impossible. Kevin Garnett changed that by getting picked fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. With his selection, Garnett became the first high school player drafted since Bill Willoughby in 1975.
Garnett paved the way for high schoolers like Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal who would rather go straight to the pros than attend college. A year after Garnett entered the league, Bryant was taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets who immediately shipped him to Los Angeles for Vlade Divac.
Who knew a member of the hated Boston Celtics would be instrumental in Bryant's ascent to 30,000 points.
It took a perfect storm to get to 30,000, but somehow Bryant got there. Next up, Wilt Chamberlain at 31,419 career points. You're move, Kobe.
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