One of the more longer-lasting records in NBA history will start to come under fire in the near future as LeBron James inches closer and closer to the top spot of the all-time points standings. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the top spot since 1984 and his 38.387 points have remained the benchmark since his retirement in 1989.
James has climbed his way up the leaderboard and sits third heading into the 2021-22 season, almost exactly 3,000 points behind Abdul-Jabbar. Given how little James has slowed down despite his age in recent seasons, there is a certain sense of inevitability that he will become the new all-time leading scorer in the coming years.
Abdul-Jabbar recently spoke about the likelihood of James passing him and his thoughts on the matter in a one-on-one interview with longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein.
“I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”
James will enter this season 3,020 points behind Abdul-Jabbar. At his career rate of 27 points per game, James is in the neighborhood of 112 games away from reaching Abdul-Jabbar. While it’s obviously impossible this season, it’s likely he does it in the first half of the 2022-23 season.
What is likely is that James will become the second all-time leading scorer this season by passing another former Laker in Karl Malone. Currently, James is 1,561 points behind Malone and would need roughly 58 games to catch Malone. Barring injury — knock on wood — James will catch Malone in the latter stages of this season.
Very interestingly, the 58th game of the season for the Lakers is against the Utah Jazz in Los Angeles. While it would be rather poetic to pass Malone against the Jazz, James’ scoring average in Los Angeles has been lower than his career average. In three seasons in purple and gold, James has averaged 25.9 points per game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if James’ scoring goes a tick lower again this season and he sits out a handful of games to rest, he could potentially reach second all-time in scoring in Cleveland on the 72nd game of the season. It would have to be a rather drastic drop in scoring or a prolonged absence from the lineup earlier in the season, neither of which are pleasant assumptions to make for Lakers fans, but, again, it would be poetic.
Ultimately, though, it feels a matter of when, not if, James passes Malone and Abdul-Jabbar in the coming seasons. Abdul-Jabbar supporting him will certainly make the chase more enjoyable and should make the moment when it happens all the more special.
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