Anyone who has been watching the NBA the past 15 years (or sports in general) has noticed LeBron James whether on or off the court. His tantalizing career has been a controversial and dominant spectacle which coincided with the age of social media (age of scrutiny).
Ever since he debuted in the NBA on Oct 29, 2003 at the ripe age of 18, James has been the centerpiece of the North American sports world along with other greats like Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady to name a few. Having start his career so young (and being dominating since Game 1) has put James on the forefront of putting his name atop of many NBA records. The National Basketball Association has been around since 1946 and countless of legends have come and gone from the sport and with LeBron’s last days looming in the upcoming years; it will nice to dive into which records he actually might hold at the day of his retirement.
Since these are projections into the future (barring major injuries), we will assume LeBron will play till his late 30’s (around 38). Even though he started playing a lot younger than most players and has more mileage than anyone in NBA history at his age (regular season and playoffs), he is a physical specimen that maintains his body in great shape so the assumption shouldn’t be too far off.
Secondly James has for the most part been getting more effective with his shot selection and more accurate, as his shot’s improved for the most part each year. This is the case for NBA superstars when they realize they have to implement more to their game once their athleticism wanes. So James steep decline won’t happen till closer to the end due to his effectiveness and athletic body.
Without further ado then, lets try and project the future.
All Time Points Regular Season (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, 527
- LEBRON JAMES : 29, 460
LeBron is currently 7th on one of the most recognized lists in the NBA. LeBron is averaging 28 points in his 15th season as of December (absurd..), which is most he has had since his first go around in Cleveland eight years ago. He is projected to have around 30,888 points by this season’s end. A more conservative number for James over the ensuing five years or so would be on average 24 points as we will tend to see this number decrease per season after peak years.
This means with a minimum of 65 games played, LeBron will have amassed an extra 7800 points around his 20th season (age 38). That puts him at 38,688. This as shown in the list above would pass Kareem for most points all time in the NBA, a feat that would definitely be atop his most impressive of accomplishments.
Career Turnovers Regular Season (TOs)
- Karl Malone : 4524
- John Stockton : 4244
- Kobe Bryant : 4010
- Jason Kidd : 4003
- Moses Malone : 3804
- LEBRON JAMES: 3715
LeBron has always been the best player on his team since he was a teenager and as a result has the ball in his hands quite a bit. That plus his willingness to distribute the ball has made him more prone to turnovers than other players at his position. He has a career average of 3.4 turnovers however three of his last four seasons have seen his turnover/game rate closer and above 4.0. Considering James’ usage rate the past few years have averaged around roughly 30%, it’s safe to assume it will decrease but not by much for the remainder of his career. I used 3.5 turnovers/game with same parameters of 65 min. games played, which brings James total by career end to 4757 turnovers. James, time and time again, during his team’s losses (and sometimes wins) pinpoints to his turnovers as a area he has to focus on and rightfully so as a 38 year old James would surpass Karl Malone in this category.
Career Minutes Played Regular Season (MP)
- Kareem Abdul Jabbar : 57446
- Karl Malone : 54852
- Kevin Garnett : 50418
- Jason Kidd : 50111
- Elvin Hayes : 50000
- LEBRON JAMES : 42431
James last year played 2764 minutes in 74 regular season games as he was the league leader in minutes per game at 37.8. Even though he’s on pace for similar production in his 15th year, it’s highly unlikely James will continue this pace throughout his tenure in the NBA especially considering how many mileage he already racked up in the postseason.
In his first season with the Cavaliers after his brief stint in Miami, James was on a softer minutes restriction (by his standards) at 35.6 MP. This number more or less is what will be projected for his total minutes played after 20 years in the NBA as he is not likely to be seen in a lower bench role later on (see Kobe Bryant). This gives a total of 52,842 MP, which would remarkably only put him in 3rd on this list behind Kareem and Malone (this is a testament to the hall of famers). It’s clear James would either need to increase his minute load or average more games to lead in career minutes played in the regular season.
Player Efficiency Rating PER
This stat was made by a former ESPN employee in John Hollinger where he defines it in his own words, “The PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance”. PER is well liked by long time sport analyst Skip Bayless and others as it is perceived as a all in one stat pertaining to a basketball player’s on court performance.
- Michael Jordan : 27.91
- LeBron James : 27. 70
- Shaquille O’Neal : 26.43
James is currently second all time in PER behind Jordan, however as he begins to decline in his productivity on the court it’s an almost given that his PER will drop. Currently in his 15th season though he is averaging a PER of 31.07 which might see his overall player efficiency rating very well end in the top 2 all time.
There are countless of records James will tie or break during the course of his career and we are fortunate to be witnessing greatness night in and night out by a future Hall of Famer. This does not include the records he already holds (or breaks) in the postseason as he has been even more impressive with that regard. Love him or hate him, you have no choice but to respect him.