On the eve of his 35th birthday, LeBron James became just the ninth player in NBA history to record 9,000 assists, joining Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and John Stockton. You may notice that James is the only small forward in that group.
James also became the first player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 9,000 assists on Sunday. While the all-time record for assists and rebounds may be out of reach for James, the all-time scoring record isn’t.
With 33,347 career points, James will likely pass Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list by the end of this season. After that, he’ll try to catch Karl Malone (36,298) and then finally Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) — something no one has come close to doing. James’ situation is a little different, though.
To date, no one has scored more points before their 35th birthday than James — not even Cap himself, which puts into perspective just how dominant he was late in his career. It’s not going to be easy, but James has as good of a shot as anyone ever has to break the all-time scoring record, and he knows it.
In a recent interview with Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, James said he has thought about the prospect of breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s record, however, it doesn’t sound like he has it down to a science, or has set it as a specific goal:
“I would be lying if I said I don’t see it,” James said. “Obviously I’m not trying to say, ‘OK, well if I play this amount of time, if I average this’ ... I’m not doing that because I’ve never done that with my career. I’ve always just kind of let it happen. Whatever happens, happens. But I see it. I do see it.”
This might be why James is so against sitting games when he’s healthy. Each game James plays is an opportunity to catch Kareem, and as long as he’s playing at or near the level he’s played at for the majority of his career, he’ll be some team’s No. 1 option on offense.
By the same token, though, taking some time to rest theoretically gives James a better shot at playing to the age of 41 like Abdul-Jabbar did. Ultimately, though, no one knows James’ body better than James, and if he believes he still has plenty of tread on his tires, then no one should stop him from trying to make history.
Let’s just hope that, somewhere along the way, part of his legacy is bringing the Lakers a championship, like Abdul-Jabbar did five times during his time in Los Angeles.