When Kobe Bryant misses 13 more shots — which could happen Tuesday night against a strong Memphis defense — he will pass Celtics’ legend John Havlicek’s NBA record of 13,417 missed shots. (For the record, Kobe has done it in 19 fewer games.) Nobody in NBA history will have had more shots clank off the rim.
The fact that within a week he will own that record one way or another speaks to everything Kobe. The good and the bad intermingled and inseparable. And the fact that you know he doesn’t care about that number.
You don’t get this kind of record without having a long career in which coaches and a franchise want the ball in your hands — and that doesn’t happen if you’re not elite. Everybody near the top of this list is in the Hall of Fame (Kobe will be). Kobe will go down as one of the greatest Lakers of all time, one of the game’s great players of all time. For most of his 19 seasons the Lakers have trusted Kobe to take any shot he thought he could make — and Kobe’s supreme confidence means he thought he could make some high difficulty shots.
And he did. His aggressive style and fearlessness — combined with fundamentally sound footwork and form honed over countless hours in the gym — have made him a must-watch player. He filled Staples Center and won titles not because he could just take those shots but make them.
But that confidence doesn’t always lead to the best shot choices, which leads to misses. So far this young season Kobe has taken 35.2 percent of his shots as long twos (16 feet out to the arc) and while he’s hit an impressive 46 percent of those, that is still a lot of misses. There’s a reason it’s the shot the advanced stats crowd wants teams to avoid, but Kobe goes there. This is not a new trend, for his career, Kobe has taken 28.2 percent of his shots as long twos, a higher percentage than anywhere else on the court.
This record is a bit of a Rorschach test — what you think of Kobe missing that many shots really speaks to what you think of Kobe more than the record itself. If you think Kobe is an inefficient ball hog this confirms your suspicions. If you believe Kobe is a great player who was usually always the best scoring option on any team he was on, this record is just the waste byproduct of his drive and willingness to take on the offensive load.
As always with Kobe, the answers are not simple, and not located on either extreme. This record will just be part of a complex and fascinating legacy for Bryant.