Remember, LeBron James is not a pure scorer, so we’ve been told since high school. What should have made his game special was his unique athleticism in his generation that went hand in hand with his vision of the pitch from Magic Johnson. James crushing the world and throwing passes across the pitch would have been enough for us to consider him one of the greatest players in NBA history.
James turns 37 today and on Tuesday joined an exclusive club that has only two other members, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. He joined them in the 36,000-point club. After the Los Angeles Lakers’ 104-99 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night, James’s career points total is 36,038 less than half of his 18th season. Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leader in total points scored, totaled 36,424 points at the end of his eighteenth season. He scored 38,387 points in his 20 NBA seasons.
There aren’t many records in the NBA that resonate with most sports fans, but James breaking Jabbar’s record would force the sports world to stop and do more than clap but rethink his entire career.
Just two weeks ago Stephen Curry broke Ray Allen’s record by a total of 3 career points, a score no one cared about until Allen hugged Reggie Miller after breaking Miller’s record in 2011. The game was stopped at Madison Square Garden, not at the Chase Center in San Francisco, and a significant amount of time was spent flattering Curry on national television.
Jabbar’s record was considered untouchable. Who would have had the 20-year career needed to pass that milestone. When Jabbar set the new record in 1984, he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s score by 31,419 points. Jabbar didn’t retire until 1989.
James can realistically break this record in his nineteenth season. He has scored 617 points this season playing just 24 games. If he just scored the same number of points in the Lakers’ remaining 46 games, that would leave him 1,732 points fewer than Jabbar. James scored 1,698 points in the 2019-2020 COVID season cut short by the Lakers.
If James continues to play after this season – physically there is no reason not to, he averages 28 points per game and 6.8 assists with 52 percent shots from the field – more will need to be done than just stopping the game. game when he breaks Jabbar’s shot. disk. We’re going to have to stop the way we discuss James’ career.
James is a better basketball player than Jabbar or Michael Jordan is no longer the discussion we should have about him. It’s a fun, subjective debate to have between friends, but the best career in NBA history it will objectively belong to James. The discussion that should be there when James decides to leave the NBA: is his career the best in the history of professional sport?
The only record in the sport outside of Wayne Gretzky that is considered more untouchable than Jabbar’s career points total is Joe DiMaggio’s streak of success. James, introduced to us on a Sports Illustrated cover when magazines still counted as “The chosen one,” he can finish his career with the NBA scoring record and pass for well over 10,000 assists, as well as win four championships with three different teams. How he fares alongside Barry Bonds’ fielding and 40/40 seasons as well as being the biggest home run hitter in Major League Baseball history; Joe Louis successfully defended his heavyweight title 25 consecutive times; Tom Brady’s 600+ touchdown passes and six Super Bowl leagues; Serena Williams’ 23 Major Leagues (I know Margaret Court has 24, but that’s not all in the Open and Court era supported apartheid therefore at least one deduction greater than two holds); and Gretzky who holds all major NHL records (Alex Ovechkin is threatening career milestone)?
The boy from Akron, Ohio, who signed that $ 90 million Nike contract prior to his NBA contract will be among those greats at the conclusion of his professional sports career which will last for three decades. All the hype and all the accolades.
And please don’t forget, LeBron James is not a pure scorer.