NBA fans will always have one common argument for as long as the league stays around; “Who is the best player to ever play the game?” Most will anoint Michael Jordan that title as he was one of the most polarizing players to ever step foot on a basketball court. Others may think Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabar, or Kobe Bryant are more deserving. But what makes someone the best player, and how does one go about deciding who that person is? While that discussion will always be had, another is “Will anyone ever score more points than Kareem?”
Many players have come and gone through the NBA; some exited early, others became consistent role players, and a select few became Hall of Famer’s. One man, Kareem Abdul Jabar, scored more points than any other player to suit up in an NBA game. When he retired in 1989 at the age of 42 he held the record for most points scored, most blocks, most all star games, and the most MVP’s. He scored 38,387 points over 20 NBA seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers and was a first ballot Hall of Famer, easily one of the best to ever play.Many questioned if anyone would ever challenge the scoring title, or even come close for that matter.
In 2003, Lebron James, labeled the “Chosen One” before he even stepped foot on to the court was believed to be a star in the making and someone who could uproot longstanding records. We are now one month away from 2017 and Lebron James is playing in his 14th NBA season. He currently sits at number 10 on the all time scoring list with 27,186 points scored and is within striking distance of ending the season top seven or eight. So the question many have been asking is, “Can LeBron Catch Kareem?”
LeBron James became the youngest player to reach 27,000 points in NBA History earlier this season, which bodes well for him if he wants to score the most points ever, right? Well, while he was the youngest to get to 27,000 points, he also logged a lot of minutes to get there. In the graphic below, you can see that LeBron is well ahead of some all time greats in terms of scoring and the age at which they retired.
Looking at this, it leads one to think that LeBron can easily pass Kareem because of how young he is. However, I mentioned earlier how he has also has logged A LOT of minutes, I was not lying. The image below shows that LeBron has already tallied more minutes in 13 seasons than Charles Barkely (16 seasons) and Dominique Wilkins (18 seasons) did in their entire career.
So now when you look at this, LeBron’s numbers become more human like and one can understand a little more as to why he has the points he does. Now, with all of this taken in to account, does LeBron have the stamina and longevity to beat the record. Well one easy way to figure this out is to map out how the next few years will go in terms of scoring. For his career, he is averages 27.1 points per game, and with the natural aging process of NBA players that number steadily declines the more you play. However, LeBron does not need to record those type of numbers to catch up to Kareem. He actually only has to average 22 points per game, or 1750 points per season, over the next seven seasons to easily pass Kareem in scoring. While that does not seem very hard for James to do, Father Time will start to kick in soon and that will ultimately decide whether James has the ability to pass Kareem. If you don’t believe me you can check out the diagram below detailing what I just said.
With all that said, LeBron James statistically has a very good chance of passing Kareem for the most points scored in NBA history. Now the matter will be if he can actually go out and do it. Not many can doubt James however as he holds records for every single “youngest to” in terms of points scored up to this point in his career. His physical dominance over players in the league are unmatched, his conditioning is something doctors marvel over, and the way he trains makes him a force to deal with for any team.