Predicting Kobe’s All Time Scoring Rank

As Kobe inches closer and closer to Shaq’s #5 spot on the all time scoring list, it’s fun to entertain the idea of where Kobe will end up when it’s all said and done.

  • 1) The Cap:  38,387
  • 2) Mail Man:  36,928
  • 3) His Airness aka GOAT aka Black Jesus:  32,292
  • 4) The Stilt aka 100 lady smasher: 31,419
  • 5) Diesel:  28,596
  • 6) Thug Poet aka Kobe: ~ 28,500

The most frequent tidbits I’ve come across (from sports media) is whether Kobe has any gas in the tank left alluding to the high mileage his knees have racked up over the years.

Looking at the relationship between Career Points and Age would seem to directly address the peanut gallery’s concerns.

Let’s have a crack at this through some basic visuals via ggplot2’s goody-bag.

Not surprisingly, there’s some declining trend as these great players accumulate wear and tear each additional year in the league. We see some players like Wilt have a higher rate of incline/decline than players like Kareem.Looking at the player’s boxplots we see Wilt’s career points have a large amount of variability while Karl and Kareem have a smaller spread. Although you can kind of see this idea in the ‘time series’ plot above, it’s easier to pick up this volatility through the boxplots. I would posit that Wilt’s huge volatility is due to his serious injury near the later part of his career.

Combining insights from the time series and boxplots, you can see Kobe’s points per year has been pretty ‘consistent’ (not many sharp drops) while showing some signs of volatility.

Using the top 6 greats and fitting a loess smooth of points per year over year, we can see some kind of non-linear curvature hidden in the data.

Without fitting an actual model, we can form a hypothesis of all the exploration we’ve done so far.

Noting Kobe’s consistent growth (even in this stage of his career where the other 5 greats are near their end or have already called it quits). Further, the fact that his points per year (in the most current year) lie above the loess curve suggests Kobe could possibly climb another two ranks realistically.

The next step would be to build a model and extrapolate