There are now seven 30,000 scorers in league history, with James joining four Hall of Famers in career leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, and two future Hall of Famers in Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. On Tuesday, LeBron joined this most exclusive club in a career that goes beyond scoring.
It is worth mentioning that Julius Erving also reached the milestone with his ABA career included (30,026), also Malone (Utah Jazz), Bryant (Los Angele Lakers) and Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) are the only players to score at least 30,000 points for one team.
LeBron James might be in his 15th season, but he is still setting basketball records that celebrate his youth. He’s already the youngest player in NBA history to: score most points by prep-to-pro player in their professional debut, score 30 points in a game, be named NBA Rookie of the Year, average at least 30 points per game in the NBA, be awarded All-NBA honors, win MVP honors at an All-Star Game and win Most Valuable Player award four times. And now at 33 years and 24 days, he beat out Kobe Bryant by 445 days (1 year, 80 days) to become the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points.
Kobe was 34 years and 104 days old when he accomplished this feat. Chamberlain was 35, Abdul-Jabbar and Malone were each 36 and Jordan and Nowitzki were each 38. James is now the youngest player to reach every point milestone from 1,000 to 30,000. This basketball version of a scoring cycle shows off one of James’ most subtle features: a beautiful combination between longevity and a truly explosive ceiling.
- 1,000 Points – on February 9, 2004 (19 years, 41 days)
- 5,000 Points – on January 21, 2006 (21 years, 22 days)
- 10,000 Points – on February 27, 2008 (23 years, 59 days)
- 15,000 Points – on March 19, 2010 (25 years, 72 days)
- 20,000 Points – on January 16, 2013 (28 years, 17 days)
- 25,000 Points – on November 2, 2015 (30 years, 307 days)
- 30,000 Points – on January 23, 2018 (33 years, 24 days)
Now let’s look who was the fastest. James is the fourth-fastest player, in terms of games played, to reach the milestone, needing 1,107. It’s not a shocker that Chamberlain tops the list, he reached the milestone in only 941 games. In terms of minutes played James is the second-fastest, behind Jordan, who needed roughly 6,000 fewer minutes to get to 30k mark.
- Wilt Chamberlain – 941 games (approximately 43,386 minutes)
- Michael Jordan – 960 (36,965)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1,101 (43,461)
- LeBron James – 1,107 (42,970)
- Karl Malone – 1,152 (43,221)
- Kobe Bryant – 1,180 (43,078)
- Dirk Nowitzki – 1377 (48225)
The Cavaliers’ all-time leader in points, assists, steals, field goals made and three-pointers made, games and minutes played entered Saturday’s game with 27.1 points per game, good for fourth in this comparison. Again, Chamberlain tops the list with his unearthly scoring averages, at that point in his career the Stilt averaged 31.9 points per game.
- Wilt Chamberlain – 31.9 points per game
- Michael Jordan – 31.3
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 27.4
- LeBron James – 27.1
- Karl Malone – 26.0
- Kobe Bryant – 25.4
- Dirk Nowitzki – 21.8
Youngest and fastest (nor does oldest and slowest) doesn’t really mean anything for a milestone so impressive and so rare. Despite headlines, James momentum toward history has been simply remarkable.
To give you some context to how difficult this basketball milestone is, only 347 players in league history have managed to reach 10,000 (James has 10,958 points against the Western Conference teams), and just 44 players have scored 20,000 points by the end of their careers, however long those might have run (James has 19,063 points against the Eastern Conference teams). So you need a perfect combination of skills, regularity, discipline, luck and health (no significant injuries) to reach that special plateau. Below are James’ scoring numbers against each NBA franchise.
So how many points is James behind the next player on the all-time scoring list and when he will catch Kareem? It’s not fair to say any of these marks are out of reach for James, but here’s that shortlist of players with more than 30,000 points.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387
- Karl Malone – 36,928
- Kobe Bryant – 33,643
- Michael Jordan – 32,292
- Wilt Chamberlain – 31,419
- Dirk Nowitzki – 30,837
- LeBron James – 30,021
At age 33, LeBron is exactly 8,366 points shy of tying Kareem’s all-time point total. He should finish this season somewhere around 31,000 points. It’s reasonable to assume that he will average at least 25 points per game in the next four seasons, while playing at least 70 games per season, and that is 7,000 points. This would put him at 2nd All-Time behind Kareem, and at age 37, he would be approximately 400 points shy of tying Kareem’s record. So it is extremely safe to assume that LeBron has a very legitimate shot at passing Kareem and becoming the All-Time leading point scorer somewhere in his late 30s.
LeBron is probably the most durable player in the NBA. Last season he led the NBA in the regular season with 37.8 minutes per game. He is the most experienced player to lead the NBA in minutes per game for a season. No other player has led the league in minutes per game beyond his 12th season (Allen Iverson was in his 12th season when he averaged an NBA-high 41.8 minutes per game in 2007-08).
So unless he has an injury, feel free to add another 10,000 points to his career totals. Depending on how much he plays and how he performs over the next six, seven season he has a good chance of passing Kareem and becoming the first player ever to score 40,000 points for his career. Getting to 40,000 is a difficult task that has never been done but LeBron has a real chance, thanks to his ability to work harder than everybody else.
Statistics used courtesy of NBA/Stats and Basketball Reference.