The Kobe Bryant outlier: how his career compares to the NBA average

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant has announced that this will be his last season playing for the LA Lakers.

Everyone knows Bryant is an NBA legend – Bryant knows it, NBA commissioner David Silver knows it and basketball stats junkies sure as hell know it.

Using data from basketball-reference, NBA fan Michael Wilczynski has looked at average career length for professional players. There’s an upward trend: those who retired in the season that ended in 1947 typically had been playing for just one year – by 2010 that figure had risen to six years. Among the 3,668 players Wilczynski looked at over that 63 year-period, the average NBA career length was 4.9 years.

Whichever way you look at it, Bryant stands out – by the time he retires in 2016, his 20 year-career will be an outlier.

Chart comparing Bryant to NBA average career length.
Bryant stands out against his fellow pros Photograph: Michael Wilczynski/Mona Chalabi

A detailed statistical analysis in the Macalester Review (a journal published by undergraduate students at Macalester College) would suggest Bryant is even more surprising. The authors found that player height correlated with length of career (Bryant is 6ft 6in, the NBA average is 6ft 7in) – typically the taller a player, the greater their chance of having a long career. They also found that guards (the position played by Bryant) and forwards tend to have a shorter career compared to centers.

The fact that he has spent that entire career with the Lakers also makes Bryant pretty special. The closest contenders are John Stockton who retired in 2003 after 19 seasons playing for Utah Jazz and Tim Duncan who may still overtake Bryant given that he is currently in his 19th season with the San Antonio Spurs.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Mona Chalabi, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th November 2015 22.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010