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When it comes to scoring buckets, there are only three players ahead of Kobe Bryant: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan.
On Saturday night, against the Sacramento Kings, Bryant slipped past Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419-point mark, and currently sits fourth on that illustrious list of all-time dominant scorers.
The big question is, have we seen a better scorer than Kobe?
While all three above him proved to be more efficient scorers, it’s difficult to claim that those three legends could score as many ways as Bryant. Jordan eventually added three-point range to his jumper, but over a course of a single season, MJ was reluctant to take defended threes, and no backcourt player in NBA history has been defended as heavily as Bryant has (and before you give me the “hand-checking” excuse, please understand that zone defenses are designed to stop the superstar, and any scorer with no bias will tell you they are far tougher to play against). Malone had range for a power forward, and played pick and roll basketball with a top three point guard of all time (John Stockton) for the beef of his career. Kareem fed off of Showtime the last decade of his career, and he was a giant among smaller, less athletic players back in the 70s. You don’t believe that statement? When was the last time you saw a big man average 20 rebounds per game? How often did it occur before the 1980s?
The best part about a debate is speculation. How would a prime Kareem fare against a 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal during the 2000-02 dynasty? If Jordan had so much trouble against Gary Payton in the 1996 NBA Finals, despite being the MVP of the league and still putting up 30 points a night, what would his performances look like against a 2008 Boston Celtics team that featured Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, James Posey, and Kendrick Perkins as defensive players?
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As a fan of the game in general, there would be nothing I want more than to be able to have these "dream match-ups" between players. It would absolutely ruin any debates we could ever have, but still, incredible to see.