LeBron James
LeBron James (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

38,387 points.

That is the current record for the most points in an NBA career held by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Let’s recognize that not a single Abdul-Jabbar point came through a 23.75 ft three-point shot. Outside the number of championships, this individual statistic seems to be the single most herald in the basketball record books – a record that has stood for 29 years and counting.

Here is a list of the top five highest scoring careers in NBA history.

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387 points
  • Karl Malone – 36,928 points
  • Kobe Bryant – 33,643 points
  • Michael Jordan – 32,292 points
  • Wilt Chamberlain – 31,419 points

While the game of basketball has evolved over many years, the argument of “greatest basketball player of all-time” will never be solved. Regardless of who your personal selection is, there is a sufficient amount of data, records, and statistics that support a handful of players for this title.

This article, whether you agree with it or not (feel free to poke holes in it), is about what LeBron James has to do to become the best player of all-time. Sure, there is a chance this article is a catch 22, but I am giving my opinion on what LeBron needs to do to claim the throne as “the best player to ever step foot on an NBA court”. By the end of the article, success will not be measured by “if I changed your mind or not”. It will be measured by those of you who take a step back and see that he has a legitimate possibility to get there based on the criteria I provide.

As I mentioned earlier, most everyone has their own opinion on this topic. Go ahead – ask a random person on the street who the best NBA player of all-time is and they will have an answer. Right or wrong. Even my wife will chime in from time to time.

LeBron James is the only NBA player EVER to reach 30,000 points, 8,000 assists, and 8,000 rebounds in a career. To say he is a walking triple-double is an understatement. With that in mind – here we go.

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What More Has To Be Done?

LeBron James
LeBron James (David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)

The Scorer

As I mentioned earlier, scoring points matters in this league. Currently, LeBron sits seventh on the all-time scoring list at 31,038 points. That’s 381 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place.

In totality, he is 6,968 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the scoring throne in NBA history. Over the course of his 15 seasons in the league, he has averaged 2,069 points per season. According to my math (feel free to double…triple check), he can reach 6,968 points in three and a half seasons scoring at his cumulative regular season average. Even if he totals the lowest scoring in his career (his rookie season – 1654 total points), it will take him just 4 1/4 years to surpass Kareem.

To those avoiding the inevitable – it’s extremely plausible that LeBron James finishes his career as the leading scorer in NBA history.

And the craziest part about this is NO ONE has ever considered him a “scorer”. You think of today’s natural scorers like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Steph Curry, etc. and not one person will mention LeBron in that sentence. And yet, here I am calculating how long it’ll take him to hold the most coveted record in the NBA.

This blows my mind.

“His best asset is his passing…his defensive”. Oh really?

Because he won’t ever top the record for most assists all time or will ever be considered the best one-on-one defender. But he absolutely has a chance to stand alone as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader.

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The Maestro

This pass is so unreal it’s mind-boggling.

To be considered the best of all time, LeBron will also have to eclipse 10,000 assists. He is widely known as one of the best passers in the NBA and perhaps is his best “basketball trait”.

LeBron James currently sits at 8,208 assists which ranks 11th all-time among assists leaders. For his career, he averages 547.2 assists per season. It should be noted that his career average of 547.2 assists is 200 fewer assists than he recorded this past season (747 assists in 2018).

Therefore, to surpass 10,000 assists, LeBron needs to play to his career average for four more seasons.

10,000 career assists ranks 6th all-time in NBA history. Couple that with owning the title of “Scoring King” and that alone puts him in elite company.

The Leaper

As I type this sentence, LeBron James has 8,415 career rebounds which is good for 59th all-time. Over his 15-year career, he averages 561 rebounds per season. This past season, he recorded 709 rebounds which totaled 150 more than his career average.

If he continues to average 561 rebounds for the next four seasons, he will officially pass 10,000 career rebounds (10,659) which is good for 32nd all-time – ahead of the great David Robinson.

At this point, Lebron will be the leading scorer in NBA history, 6th all-time in assists, and 32nd in rebounds. This puts him in a sphere all by himself. No player has eclipsed 30,000, 8,000, and 8,000 and he has a chance to total 38,000-40,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 10,000 assists. Good luck catching that number, youngins.

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The Defender

As the 2018 regular season came to a close, LeBron, for his career, now totals 1865 steals (good for 17th all-time). Over 15 seasons, LeBron averages 124 steals per season. Therefore, if he continues his career average of 124 steals per game for four more seasons, his total of 2,362 steals would rank 5th all-time right behind Gary “The Glove” Payton.

Not only can he strip you on the way to the rim, he also protects the rim as well as any forward we’ve ever seen. James has recorded 888 blocks in 15 years – five blocks behind Michael Jordan. 888 blocks is good for 116th place in the history books. But, if we continue our trend of average play for four more seasons, he will total 1,125 blocks which places him 69th (nice) place all-time.

Although he is known for his passing, this is going to go down as the top play of his career.

In Review

Just to be sure you’re keeping up with me, here are the categories and where LeBron ends up all time after four seasons of career average play:

  1. Points – 1st all-time
  2. Assists – 5th all-time
  3. Rebounds – 32nd all-time
  4. Steals – 5th all-time
  5. Blocks – 69th all-time

Sure, we have access to advanced analytics (he dominates those as well) that we can read until our eyes bleed, but in the historical rankings, these are the five most important categories that have stood the test of time. And there isn’t a player in the history of the game to rank this well in all five.

By contrast, the only other player that cracks the top five in three of the five categories is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

  1. Points – 1st all-time
  2. Rebounds – 3rd all-time
  3. Blocks – 3rd all-time

For whatever reason, KAJ is usually never considered the best player to ever play this game.

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Past Accolades

No matter how you look at it, losing 6 finals taints his legacy to some degree. While most of these teams each include two, three, and four potential hall-of-fame basketball players, it’s still a number that talking heads throw out against his legacy and is justifiable.

And to be honest, that’s the only number stopping people from crowing James as the G.O.A.T.

In my mind, if LeBron James surpasses the numbers listed above, and brings one more championship to a different city, he will be crowned the greatest player ever. That’s why building a super team with the Lakers is vital.

Now, losing isn’t the only thing the King has experienced in the postseason. Here’s how his numbers rank in the postseason:

  1. Total points – 1st all-time
  2. Total steals – 1st all-time
  3. Total field goals made – 1st all-time
  4. Total free throws made – 1st all-time
  5. Total defensive rebounds – 2nd all-time to Tim Duncan
  6. Total three’s made – 3rd all-time to Ray Allen and Steph Curry
  7. Total assists – 3rd all-time
    1. **It’s important to note Magic holds the record (2,346), Stockton is second (1,839), and LeBron is third (1,687)**

Readers also need to recognize that the playoffs in today’s NBA landscape feature more games than they used to. So while LeBron has played in more games, I want to dispel the argument against him that “It took too many games to pass other greats”. It’s a testament to his greatest that he has been so successful for so long in the NBA and has shown the ability to play in as many games.

Not only has he completely dominated the playoffs, but LeBron James has pieced together a nice resume of awards, too.

  • 3× NBA champion
  • 3× NBA Finals MVP
  • 4× NBA Regular Season MVP
  • 12× First Team All-NBA selections
  • 6× NBA All-Defensive selections
  • 14× NBA All-Star
  • 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP
  • Rookie of the Year: 2004
  • All-Rookie First Team: 2004
  • NBA scoring champion
  • 3x NBA minutes leader
  • 37× NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month
  • 61× NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week
  • 6× NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month

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Finals Appearances

There are three certainties in life:

  • Death
  • Taxes
  • LeBron taking his team to the finals

For us visual learners, picture this – there is an entire generation who, for the last eight years, directly correlate the NBA Finals with LeBron James. That is all they’ve seen.

There are only three players in the NBA who have been to more consecutive finals than LeBron. One of them is Bill Russell and the other two (Sam Jones and Tom Heinsom – both Hall of Famers) played with Russell.

Sure, now that he is with the Lakers, the Western Conference somehow got better.

For some reason, mainstream media and its minions continue to feed the narrative that it’s better to not make it to the finals at all rather than lose in the finals.

Who began this asinine line of thinking?

 

Had LeBron lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics, it would have helped his legacy? That’s preposterous.

What’s Next?

LeBron James is the best basketball player I have ever witnessed and I encourage all of you to enjoy the time that we have here to witness what he’s accomplished. I didn’t even dabble in all of the wonderful things off the court that make people like him even more.

There isn’t a question in my mind that he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. If he can surpass the statistical totals listed above and win one more championship with a third team, it will cement his legacy as the greatest NBA player this world has ever seen.

Don’t you think?