How the NBA Has Changed Around Kobe Bryant—And How Kobe Hasn’t

Kobe Bryant has been the unmoving eye of the NBA hurricane for 19 seasons—its stubborn, static center orbited violently by a maelstrom of change.

There are lots of ways to illustrate how much the NBA has evolved during Bryant's two-decade tenure. Player turnover, trends in style of play, rule changes that morphed the game into something different entirely—all of these highlight Bryant as a solitary figure from another era.

Another option: simply looking at the names of the league's elite in Bryant's rookie year.

The All-Stars during the 1996-97 season all hail from a bygone era. In fact, a handful—Tim Hardaway, Glen Rice and John Stockton—have since seen their sons on NBA rosters.

Kevin Garnett was an All-Star in 1997 as a sophomore, and he's the only player from that game who remains active today. He's also the only active player from a draft class before Bryant's; nobody else from Kobe's legendary 1996-97 class is still playing.

Here's a broader snapshot of what the NBA looked like when Bryant first joined it—compared to what it looked like last year:

More perspective: When Bryant entered the NBA, the league's all-time scoring list was littered with all-time, old-timey greats. The NBA's top scorers through the 1995-96 campaign:

And here's the league's overall leaderboard now:

Maybe it's not surprising that more than half the names have shuffled since Bryant joined the league. Gone are John Havlicek, Alex English and Jerry West from the new leaderboard, bumped down by surges from Bryant-era stars like Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce, along with era-bridgers like Shaquille O'Neal.

It's not just the points (or who's scored them) that tell the story of Bryant as a man out of time. It's the way they've been scored.


Bryant Bucking Trends

The t...

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