Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest scorers the NBA has ever seen. In his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he scored 33,643 points, which is the fourth-most points any player in the NBA has ever scored.
However, Bryant was also one of the most fierce competitors of all time, which is why his teammate Pau Gasol believes he would have had a more balanced game if another player pushed him to do so. To be more specific, Gasol recently told Omar Raja of ESPN that he thinks Bryant could have had more triple-doubles than Russell Westbrook, who’s ranked second all-time in career triple-doubles (146) at the age of 31, if their peaks overlapped:
“He always felt that he could score over anyone, or over multiple people, but he understood that balance was important, that having teammates in rhythm was important, that finding the open teammate and open guy was important, in spite of how much he could and should score over anyone. If he wanted to get a triple-double, he was going to get a triple-double. If he would have lived through the era of Russell Westbrook putting up all those triple-doubles, he would have tried to outduel (him). He would have gotten more triple-doubles than Russ probably.
“Every great player and one-of-a-kind player has his run and his moment, and you can’t put them all at once in the same time period, but he was that type of player, where he loved the challenge. The competition made him better, so he would raise his game to prove that he was better than anyone else.”
It’s a little hard to make that case on paper because Bryant ended his career with just 21 triple-doubles, which isn’t even ranked in the top-10 for all-time triple-doubles in NBA history, but there are some stats that suggest he was capable of doing it. For example, Bryant was one of five players in NBA history to record at least 30,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists in their career. Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James are the others.
All that being said, Bryant seemed to get by just fine without racking up triple-doubles — I mean, Magic Johnson is the only player in the top-10 that has anywhere near as many championship rings as Bryant. Westbrook will likely end his career as the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, but I’m sure Bryant would have preferred his rings.