Can Kobe Age As Gracefully As Jordan?

by August 25, 2010

by Tzvi Twersky

Yep, they’re comparing Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan again. Nope, the debate has nothing to do with G.O.A.T status. This time, on the heels of Kobe’s 32nd birthday, they’re questioning whether Bryant’s curtain call years will mirror Jordan’s.

The L.A. Times is the forum for debate:

Now that Kobe Bryant’s turned 32, how much of a decline can we expect in his game over the next few seasons?

The only player to compare Bryant’s 30-something performance with, of course, is Michael Jordan. But it’s not a simple comparison because by the age of 32 MJ had been retired for almost two seasons while he tried, and failed, to make it as a pro baseball player.

So, when Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls late in the 94-95 season—at 32—he’d played only 778 NBA regular season and playoff games. By comparison, Kobe Bryant has already played a whopping 1,219 games, 57% more than Jordan at the same age. Kobe is clearly the NBA version of a Ferrari with high mileage.

What happened after Jordan’s 32nd birthday? MJ led the league in scoring in the next three seasons before another retirement attempt.

Still, age forced some adjustments in MJ’s game—and we might see the same from Kobe.

Late in Jordan’s career, he’d often pace himself to save something for the fourth quarter. Even then, MJ was great, he just wasn’t the airborne legend of his youth.

As Kobe—a hoops historian—readies for his 15th Lakers season, he’s probably got this MJ stat memorized: After Jordan turned 32, he won three more NBA titles.

Jay rhymed a while back that 30’s the new 20. Let’s see if 32 is still 32.