LeBron James nearing scoring record
LeBron James, who plays the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night, is only 36 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record.
still finding it difficult to label LeBron as a real “scorer”
As the “King” continues his rapid approach of one of the league’s most “unbreakable” records, many NBA pundits and historians are still finding it difficult to label LeBron as a real “scorer,” much less the best scorer the game has ever seen.
So, where does LeBron rank as an all-time NBA scorer? Here’s what the numbers say.
Analyzing the competition
Michael Jordan, LeBron’s arch nemesis in the G.O.A.T. debate, is commonly thought of as the best scorer basketball has seen. He retired with and maintains the highest career points-per-game average (30.12) and had a season where he averaged an astonishing 37.1 points.
Wilt Chamberlain (30.07) and Elgin Baylor (27.36) are just behind Jordan on the scoring ladder. LeBron is back at fifth (27.22), one spot behind contemporary Kevin Durant (27.28). Of those five, LeBron is second in field goal percentage (50.4), and Wilt is first. He also has the second-best three-point percentage, behind Durant, although Wilt and Baylor did not play in the three-point era.
Continuing with three-pointers: LeBron is ninth on the NBA’s all-time three-point shooting list despite struggling as a long-range shooter early in his career. The San Antonio Spurs famously beat LeBron’s Miami Heat team in the Finals by forcing him to become a jump-shooter, which he was unprepared to deal with.
those numbers improved to 52.3% and 35.0% on a 26.8-point average over his ten most recent seasons
LeBron has also improved as a shooter at every level as his 20-year career has progressed. Across his first ten professional seasons, he shot 49.0% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc while averaging 27.6 points; those numbers improved to 52.3% and 35.0% on a 26.8-point average over his ten most recent seasons.
In essence, LeBron’s soon-arriving all-time scoring record is not a mere longevity achievement. He has not only sustained but improved his ability to put the basketball in the hoop from everywhere on the floor.
Judging the list
Not only will LeBron have the crowning achievement of most points ever, but he dwarfs many of the other contenders for the title of scoring king. That’s while also racking up the fourth-most assists in league history.
In terms of points per game, LeBron is well ahead of Allen Iverson (26.66), George Gervin (25.09), Kobe Bryant (24.99), James Harden (24.78), and Steph Curry (24.52). He also has a better field goal percentage than all of them, except for Gervin, who also shot 50.4% from the field.
Statistics are not the issue. A case against LeBron being the best scorer in the history of basketball is a more qualitative analysis.
players like Jordan, Durant, Kobe, and others were much smoother with the ball in their hands
There are two schools of thought on this approach. The first is that simply watching a few games will show that players like Jordan, Durant, Kobe, and others were much smoother with the ball in their hands. Even great players that don’t stack up historically like Kyrie Irving and Devin Booker look like they have more pure skill going to the basket.
The second school of thought is that a player’s bag of tricks doesn’t matter if they can’t deliver. The real answer is likely a middle ground into which neither group is willing to venture.
As the debate rages on, and as mentioned earlier, LeBron has the chance to eclipse Kareem’s record of 38,387 points Tuesday night against the Thunder. If he comes up short of the 36 points he needs, he will almost certainly break it Thursday evening against the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that drafted Kareem in 1969.