Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is on pace to break the all-time NBA scoring record. But is he the best Laker ever? (Gerald Herbert/AP)

On Wednesday night in New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant became the fifth NBA player to score 30,000 career points. At 34 years and 104 days, he made it into that elite club a year more quickly than the great Wilt Chamberlain. Henry Abbott of ESPN’s True Hoop told Bill Littlefield that Bryant’s talent on offense was just one reason for the quick tally.

“He didn’t go to college, which is a huge factor,” Abbott said. “He entered the league at 17, and among the NBA’s current players who are in the top 20 of all-time points scored, none of them played a second of NCAA basketball.” In addition to Bryant, the other two active players on the scoring list are Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. Bryant also adheres to strict nutrition and workout regimens.

He’s the guy who wants to destroy every opponent, every second of every game, and I think that’s actually inspired a generation of basketball.
– Henry Abbott, ESPN's TrueHoop

“Finally, the way he scored that many points is by shooting a ton, and he is one of the all-time best at this,” Abbott said. “I mean, the man shoots more shots per minute than Allen Iverson. It’s not as popular to discuss among NBA pundits that he is just a gunner, but that’s a big part of how you get that many points, too.”

Magic Johnson, who only scored a paltry 17,707 points in his career, offered the opinion that Kobe was the greatest Laker of all time. Considering that Wilt and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also scored more than 30,000 points, and that Magic lead the Lakers to five titles, Abbott disagrees that Bryant is the best.

“In my mind, it’s Magic,” Abbott said. “To me, Magic was the guy that made every other player on the team so much more effective than they would have otherwise been. Whereas, Kobe’s had almost the opposite effect. I think you could make the case that some players he’d played with — Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol come to mind — probably could have done a lot more, had they been able to touch the ball more.”

Bryant’s mindset — and how it influences his teammates — is also a key to his success.

“He’s the guy who wants to destroy every opponent, every second of every game, and I think that’s actually inspired a generation of basketball in a way that really matters,” Abbott said. “And it leads to things like those off-season workouts and just extraordinary amounts of self-motivated professionalism, which has been very good for the NBA.”

Despite the physical toil of his 17 years in the NBA, Bryant’s point production remains very high. He’s averaging 28 points a game this season. Assuming Bryant maintains his current scoring pace, he’d surpass Kareem’s all-time scoring record of 38,387 in about 4 seasons. But Abbott doesn’t think that’s likely to happen.

“[There are] a couple reasons, the main one being that his position is much more athletically demanding,” Abbott said. “When Kobe Bryant has normal slowing down owing to age, at his position, he will stop scoring on all but jumpers, whereas Kareem was very productive at age 40 because when you’re a big man, you get to stand still while you score…”