The all-time greats in the NBA have all been exceptional scorers and at the same time, played good defense. Although the "greatest of all time" conversation has always featured Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Kobe Bryant did enough to be part of that debate, too.
Bryant idolized Jordan and played to meet up to the standards he set. While he pursued the Chicago Bulls star, he grew into an elite talent in the NBA. Scottie Pippen, MJ's teammate, once said that although Kobe spent so much time trying to be Jordan but in his eyes, the Black Mamba was better.
Kobe broke into the NBA at 18 after he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers. Four years later, he led the purple and gold to the first title of their three-peat in the early 2000s. It was the first of five championships he won in his 20-year NBA career.
Comparing Bryant's scoring totals against the best on-ball defenders gives an insight into how great the Los Angeles Lakers legend was.. His tally in high-scoring games was more than a combination of some of the NBA's greatest scorers. That said, let's analyze a few matchups in terms of 40, 50, and 60-point scoring throughout his career.
Kobe Bryant Had More 40-Point Games Than LeBron And Curry Combined
Stephen Curry is arguably the best three-point shooter in NBA history and has shown his ability, consistently dropping three-point bombs for twelve consecutive seasons. He once made 402 three-pointers in one season - the highest tally in NBA history. The closest a player has come to that is James Harden's 378 in the 2018-19 season, with over 140 more attempts. Regardless, Curry has only 49 40-point games despite his stellar shooting.
King James, on the other hand, has 66 40-point games throughout his 18-year career. His 40-point double-double against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals to force Game 7 is arguably the most reveled of his career.
Despite both players putting up monster numbers for their teams at times when it matters most, they did not operate at the same level as Kobe. They combined for 115 40-point games, seven shy of the Black Mamba's 122 tally.
Individually, both players cannot reach the heights Kobe did in terms of 40-point scoring. But seeing as both players are still active, they could combine for more than seven 40-point games in the 2021-22 NBA season. The Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers are favorites to come out of the West, and a lot of their success will be reliant on the performances of both superstars.
Kobe Bryant Had More 50-Point Games Than LeBron, Durant, And Bird Combined
Kevin Durant is dubbed the most efficient scorer in the NBA right now, and for good reason. His skillset scoring the ball is unmatched as the forward has a plethora of ways to break down any defense. Even so, Durant has only scored 50 points on six occasions.
LeBron has had to do the heavy lifting with all the teams he's played with. Many would say he has never won a championship without a super team, and while there is some truth to that, LBJ has been leading mediocre teams to playoff berths time and time again.
James' game transcends scoring as he is also a creator. Most of his high-scoring games have come as double-doubles or triple-doubles because he has impeccable court vision. Nonetheless, he has only twelve 50-point games in his career.
Larry Bird was the leader of the Boston Celtics that dominated in the 1980 era. He led them to three championships in his 13-year stint and had four 50-point games in the period. Combined, all three players do not surpass Kobe in this regard. The Lakers shooting guard had twenty-five 50-point games.
Kobe Bryant Had More 60-Point Games Than Jordan And LeBron Combined
Every basketball head knows by now that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest scorer in the NBA, holding the record for the most points scored in a single game after he put 100 past the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. The closest a player has come to reaching that milestone is Bryant's 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006.
While Chamberlain's thirty-two 60-point games are beyond any players' reach, Kobe finished his career with six 60-point games. LeBron and Jordan have combined for only five, with MJ having four of those.
LBJ still has some playing years under his belt and could explode for 60 if he so desires. However, he currently has one, which he got against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 3, 2014.
Kobe Bryant might not have been the best scorer in terms of accuracy, but he sure knew how to get buckets, no matter how much he had to try. Mamba mentality was indeed a guide to his greatness. He always strived to be better in every game and put in the work that got him results.
Despite his high-scoring brilliance, Kobe is ranked fourth in the all-time NBA scoring leaders list. He is one slot ahead of His Airness and one behind King James. He will undoubtedly hold his position for a long time as no other active player is close to reaching his 33,643 career points.