James nears the cusp of NBA history yet again
Hunter O. Lyle – Sports Editor
Throughout the 74 years the NBA has been around, there have been certain records set that were thought to be untouchable. However, as the sport evolves into the modern game it is today, breaking some of those records are looking more and more achievable.
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single game, set in 1962. Bill Russell’s 11 championships with the Celtics. Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s scoring record. While the first two marks of excellence are still worthy — for now — of the title “untouchable,” the latter is under threat.
Abdul-Jabar holds the record for scoring the most points in NBA history throughout his 20 seasons, sitting at 38,387. Below him, is Karl Malone with 36,928, and underneath him is the man who’s looking to challenge it all: Lebron James, “the King” who has 34,087 with surely more to come as his career continues.
First, to understand the magnitude and greatness of Abdul-Jabar’s record, there must be a realization that during his career, 1969 to 1989, the concept of utilizing the 3-point shot was not nearly as acceptable as it is in today’s game.
In fact, during what many to consider his peak, the 1971-1972 season, when Abdul-Jabar lead the Milwaukee Buck to their first and only championship, the 3-point line was not even established in the NBA — that came in 1979. Going further, out of the 15,837 field goals he made in his 20 seasons, only one of them came from beyond the arc.
Now here comes James. Sixteen years into the league and he is just 4,732 points away from dethroning Abdul-Jabar, and reaching the top spot for scoring in NBA history. While some may see Father Time as an obstacle, the numbers tell another story.
To get to this point, James has been a natural-born scorer all his life. In his four years at St. Mary’s High School he scored 2,657 points. Over his career in the NBA, James scored on average 2,130 points a season, including his career high in scoring over a season in 2,304 in 2008 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Also, besides injuries, James has never played less than 60 games, including playing 80 games or above three times — 2004-2005 he played 80, 2008-2009 he played 81 and in 2017-2018 he played all 82 regular season games. If James is healthy, he is going to play, and if he is playing, he is scoring.
This season, which may or may not continue after the hiatus caused by COVID-19, 35-year-old James is averaging 25.7 points a game through the 60 he has played, and has already racked up 1,544 points in total — also notable, he is doing this while also leading the league in assists per game.
There is no argument that James’s glamorous career is nearing an end, but the question of how many seasons he has left in the NBA is still left up to debate. Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd recently went as far as to say in an interview with Sports Illustrated that because of his basketball IQ, James could be playing until he’s 40, that means at least five more years in the kingdom.
If Kidd is correct, then based off the numbers, James would surpass Abdul-Jabar and then some, potentially even breaking 40,000 career points — if James continues his scoring averages it would take him a little over two season to pass 38,387 points.
Most likely, as the next few seasons pass, and as James’s body ages, there will be a drop-off to his game, like is true for every athlete, leaving room for doubt about him securing yet another place in NBA history. However, the King has already silenced doubters more than once throughout his tenure in the league — most notably with the first ever 3-1 comeback in the NBA Finals to beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors for Cleveland’s first title — and surely he thrives off it.