Recently Kobe became the youngest player to score 30,000 points. By the end of the season, he should surpass Wilt Chamberlain and become #4 on the all time list.
However, some have tried to minimize the achievement by saying that while Kobe is the youngest, he also took the most games to get there (since he bypassed college unlike the other players at the top of the list).
This is a fair point. "Youngest" can't mean the same thing today as it did even 20 years ago because of historical changes in the game.
However, this is also precisely the reason why the critics get it wrong. Historical changes in the game are what make Kobe's achievement even more impressive than it seems. If one accounts for league-wide scoring trends, it becomes apparent that a point today is worth more than a point has been in the past. Scoring is down overall and has been since the beginning of Kobe's career.
To put it in perspective, the league-wide scoring average since '96 has been 96.5 points per game. In contrast, scoring averages over the course of Wilt's career were 114.2 ppg. Kareem's were 109 ppg, and Michael's were 104.4 ppg. Even Karl's were 102.5 ppg.
If one adjusts each player's production to account for these trends (using the total league average since 1959 as a baseline), then here would be the all-time scoring list (projecting Kobe's points for this season based on his current average):
But this is total career points, which is an unfair comparison. If instead, we just count how each player did through 17 seasons, then here is the list:
Michael: 32591 (not counting his retirement years)
While this might not be the perfect way of adjusting the numbers, it at least does give some perspective on what they mean in historical context.