LeBron James’ all-time scoring record is his crowning jewel as the NBA’s greatest of all time.
On February 7, 2023, LeBron James hit a fadeaway jump shot over Kenrich Williams, breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s record and making Kenrich the answer to a future Jeopardy question.
LeBron scored his 38,388th point in a manner and at a place in his career that establishes the Chosen One as the Greatest Of All-Time in the history of the National Basketball Association; yes, LeBron James is the GOAT.
Those who deny LeBron’s status as the GOAT were already forced to ignore a growing resume that surpasses all of the contenders to the King’s throne. Prior to this week, and halfway through his 20th season in the NBA, LeBron’s growing resume as the greatest, includes:
- 4 NBA Championships – Including leading the only team in NBA history to come back from a 1-3 NBA Finals deficit and win; defeating a dynastic Golden State Warriors team in the process.
- 10 NBA Championship Finals – In the six Finals that LeBron’s team lost, his team was favored to win one, the 2016 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
- 19 All-star appearances – Tying LeBron for No. 1 all-time; a record he will hold by himself unless the Monstars from Space Jam 2 kidnap him and never bring him back.
- Winning an NBA Championship with 3 different teams and every NBA organization that he’s been a part of.
- 10,583 career rebounds – Placing him 35th in the history of the NBA and more rebounds than low post big men, David Robinson, Ben Wallace, and Tyson Chandler.
- 10,354 career assists – Placing him 4th in NBA history, exceeding legendary pass-first point guards Steve Nash, Magic Johnson, and Isiah Thomas.
LeBron James’ career includes numerous other accolades and accomplishments to add to his resume as the GOAT. His detractors, largely guilty of either 1) protecting a bygone era and its legends and heroes or 2) projecting their personal disdain on LeBron’s basketball career will usually rebut LeBron’s claim to the title of greatest with one, or more, or all, of the following:
- “Michael Jeffrey Jordan existed” – While simplistic in expression, it’s equally lazy in application. Yes, Michael won six NBA Championships in six NBA Finals appearances. However, he also never defeated the greatest teams of his era, in their prime, and missed the playoffs or lost in the first round many more years than he reached the pinnacle of the NBA postseason.
- “LeBron is a Compiler” – In a “blind taste test”, if any player averaged 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists, for 10 years and won two rings in five finals, they would be considered a legend of the game and a first ballot hall of fame (the low-bar nature of the NBA HOF, notwithstanding). LeBron has averaged 27.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for 20 years and has won four rings in 10 appearances. That’s not compiling, that’s two hall-of-fame careers.
- “Shut-up and Dribble” – LeBron has changed the power dynamic of NBA players and is outwardly vocal in his views on the social issues of our day. Acknowledgment of LeBron’s basketball greatness does not equal endorsement of his views on, well anything, and player empowerment may be what makes small market teams viable as players can choose what billionaire pays them to make that billionaire richer by winning games and competing for NBA titles.
No matter who you believe is the NBA’s GOAT, short of curing cancer or removing Space Jam 2 from all of our collective memories, this week was probably just “more noise” to add to the 20 years of evidence that LeBron truly is the Chosen One.
However, the final summation of points scored in a career, for Kareem, and all of the legends before LeBron was the finality of their career, LeBron is cruising past this record in a manner never seen before in the NBA, making this record another accomplishment uniquely LeBron’s and worthy of singular adulation.
Among the legends LeBron passed on his way to the top are Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and the previous almost 50 NBA hall of famers on that list (DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge may be the only players not in, or certain to be in, the hall of fame on the all-time scoring list). And while the record itself is special, it’s the way in which LeBron reached the pinnacle that is unique to his talent set and abilities, and approach to the game.
LeBron’s all-around game, his historical statically achievements, and his deference to other players in terms of scoring during his career set him apart from almost every player in the top 50 (Oscar Robertson, and ironically, Russell Westbrook may want to have a word about that). LeBron entered the league as a 6-foot-9, 245-pound freight train whose primary offense talent included his ability to attack the rim and use his physical dominance.
He surpasses Kareem and the collection of hall of famers with an effective 3-point shot, a back-to-the-basket post-game, and a fadeaway jump shot, which he used to set this record.
What makes LeBron’s accomplishment most impressive and will become a fixture in his legacy as the best ever, is that LeBron broke the record while still a dominant force in the league – an all-star and all-NBA level player. No other player on the top of this list ended their career in a form anywhere close to LeBron’s current form.
In his 20th season, LeBron is averaging 30 points a game, three more than his career average; in comparison, the next four names on the top-5 list of all-time scorers were well below their career averages:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Career 24.6 ppg to 10.1 ppg in his final year.
- Karl Malone – 25.0 ppg to 13.2 ppg.
- Kobe Bryant – 25.0 ppg to 17.6 ppg.
- Michael Jordan – 30.1 ppg to 20.0.
LeBron continues to score at levels beyond his career average; something no other legend was able to come close to as they ended their career. LeBron’s other statistics are also at, or near, his career dominant highs; he is not merely a “bucket,” he’s the same unique talent dominating the league while he passes some of the most hallowed records in the history of the NBA.
Any objective measure of LeBron’s career will mark February 8th, 2023, as the day that LeBron James’s dominance in breaking one of the few identifiable statistical records in the NBA, and the resulting accomplishments in his career from that date, cemented his place as the best to ever to play the game.