Culture of Hoops

Could LeBron James Ultimately Surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Image courtesy of Erik Drost/Flickr

Image courtesy of Erik Drost/Flickr

We all know that LeBron James is among the best players in NBA history, especially just from watching his remarkable performances over the years. Last season, LeBron and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, game back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals against the defending NBA champion, Golden State Warriors. King James is from Akron, Ohio, which is only a hop, skip, and jump away from Cleveland, so bringing a title in any major sport after decades of futility to his hometown is obviously a great story, and more importantly, great legacy for LeBron. What more can be written by James?

Very recently, LeBron became the youngest player to score 27,000 career points at 31 years old. At the moment, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career points leader at 38,387 total points. Is it possible for LeBron James to add to the novel of his NBA career by topping Kareem; does The King have a legitimate shot to surpass Abdul-Jabbar as the greatest scorer in the history of NBA?

When you consider that Kareem had the unstoppable hook shot that didn’t require a lot of physical exertion and allowed Abdul-Jabbar to play for 20 NBA seasons, you’d have to think it’ll be a difficult task for LeBron whose game is more dynamic and requires more movement and energy. Can LeBron last long enough?

Currently, James is in his 14th season; after 13 seasons, he had a total of 26,833 points. The difference between him and Kareem is 11,554. Assuming that LeBron plays 20 seasons total as Kareem did, over the next six-plus seasons, LeBron will need to average, just a tad over 20.1 points per season. Of course, he’ll also need to be healthy enough to play full 82-game seasons, and we have to assume there won’t be any NBA lockout within that time. Currently, this season, LeBron is averaging 23.8 points per game, which is a drop from his 25.3 average since returning to the Cavaliers during the 2014 NBA offseason. Of course, with teammates such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, there’s a lot of points to go around for the Cavs.

One thing that James has done recently to extend his career is lose weight, dropping from a weight fluctuating in the 260s and 270s to a current weight of 250 pounds. Obviously, less weight will cause less damage to LeBron’s knees, and despite being a physical specimen and having access to the latest and technology and research for recovery, joint pain is inevitable when you play the game of basketball as long as James has. For Kareem, it was posting up and turning. For LeBron, it’s a lot more than that.

All things considered, it’ll be an uphill battle for James to become the all-time points leader in NBA history. Production is bound to go down, as well as ability, but James will theoretically only be 38 years old if this happens. If we look at the second all-time leader in points, Karl Malone, he of 36,928 total points, he finished his career at age 40. At the age of 39, in his last full season (81 games), The Mailman did average 20.6 points per game. So, while Malone was more of a scorer his whole career and not a facilitator like LeBron, it’s possible that James could get to the top, just like he did last season with his Cavs.

Seriously, do you want to bet against a player that lifted up his teammates after being down three games to one versus a team that established the all-time wins (73) total for a season? Yeah, let’s not be surprised if LeBron does take the points throne away from Kareem one day.

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