“Grandpa” Kobe Bryant Doesn’t Have His Meter on Empty Just Yet

The last thing I want to see next June is Kobe hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the sixth time, tieing my beloved Michael Jordan, after beating my team, the Boston Celtics. I would rather give up my favorite weekly General Tso's chicken meal, than watch that horrid sight.

Unfortunately—both might happen.

This figure (click on link, then click on image) plots Kobe Bryant's PER (in red) in each season of his career. The blue dashed line represents the average PER in each season over the careers of Jerry West, George Gervin, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars, and Ray Allen.

The idea is to get a sense of how Kobe compares to some of the best shooting guards in the league both past and present, with a particular focus on the back-end of his career. If there are any signs of Kobe's decline, this plot would be one way to see them.  

Surprisingly, the other star shooting guards typically began a very gradual decline after year six. Kobe, on the other hand, remained steady and even increased his productivity significantly in year 10 (one year after Shaq was traded to Miami). Since then, Kobe has been on a downward trend.

Even so, in his 14th season, Kobe was still nearly four PER points better than the others. And even if Kobe continues on his downward trajectory this season, Kobe will still likely be better than most of the other star shooting guards were in their 15th season. Throw in the fact that the average PER in the NBA is 15, and concerns over Kobe's old age seem greatly exaggerated.  

There are other factors to consider that should fuel Laker optimism even more. Among this already select group of shooting guards, only Kobe, Michael Jordan, and Jerry West had a PER of over 20 in their 14th ...

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