On Wednesday, LeBron James celebrated his 31st birthday. He officially has the most points scored by any NBA player by his 31st birthday with 25,657 (over 1,000 more than Michael Jordan had, and 5,000 more than Jabbar). I’m here to make the case, using a few stat-based reasons why LeBron will eventually break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s all-time points record of 38,387.
First, Jabbar played until he was 41 years old. Let’s assume LeBron plays until he’s 41 as well (through the 2024-25 season). Over the next 9+ years, LeBron will have to score 12,730 points. To this point, LeBron has averaged 78 games per year. Let’s assume as age catches up to him, he’ll play slightly less due to rest and injury, and average 72 games per year (10 games off per year). There are 53 games left in this season, and let’s say he misses 5. So, 47 games this year, plus 72 games over the next 9 years (648) equals 695 games left in LeBron James’ career.
In order to score 12,730 points over 695 games, he’ll have to average 18.4 points per game (ppg). This seems entirely doable considering to this point he’s averaged over 27 ppg, and it’s only natural to assume that with age his production will fall off a bit.
Many of you will say, “Hey Mike, what about MJ? He was on pace to brake Kareem’s record to”. To this, I have two points. Jordan semi-retired twice, before he really retired. Once, famously, at age 29 after his 3rd championship and the death of his father, only to return triumphantly to win 3 more championships. Many people don’t realize after his next retirement he sat out what would have been 3 productive years between the ages of 35-37. Say he averages 25 ppg in those 5 years, he easily breaks Jabbar’s record. By thousands.
Jordan also wasn’t exactly the picture of health in his last couple years. We all knew Jordan was the gambling, drinking, cigar-smoking type, so he wasn’t exactly the chiseled specimen that James has been and likely will continue to be. You have to believe LeBron will have more productive years 38 and 39 than Jordan did in his stint with the Wizards, in which he averaged 21.2ppg, close to 3 more ppg than LeBron would need to average in those years.
As a Celtics fan it pains me to say this, but within the next decade I think we’ll be saying LeBron James is the greatest player in the history of the NBA. At least the greatest scorer. He’ll eventually bring a championship to Cleveland and cement his legacy. Perhaps a new LeBron will be drafted in the next few years, who will eventually make a run toward James’ scoring record, but for now you have to admit he is in a league of his own.
Boston Sports Analyst, Spark Sports
Twitter – @BSMike