January 23, 2019

After 30,000 point milestone, can LeBron become NBA’s all-time leading scoring?

2017/10/31 10:51 am 10:51 am10:51 am0 2 comments

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Unless LeBron James gets injured or his play drops significantly this season, he’s going to be the seventh player in NBA history to ever score 30,000 regular season points.

Update: LeBron scores 30,000th point, youngest ever NBA player to do so

If LeBron was to hang up his sneakers tomorrow, he’d already be in a pretty exclusive club as far as the all-time greats are concerned. Adding his name to another major milestone that includes only Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, will only further discussions about where he belongs in the top five NBA players of all time.

Coming into the 2017-18 NBA season, LeBron was approximately 1,200 points away from the 30K milestone. Seeing that The King has scored more than 1600 points in each of his 14 NBA seasons, and surpassed 2,000 points nine times in his career, it’s a lock that he’ll not just hit 30,000 points this season, but be well over that number by the end the year.

If LeBron averages 26 points per game this season, he’ll move past thirty thousand points in his 45th game or so. Looking further down the season, let’s say he plays 75 games this season. That means James will with more than 30,700 points by the time the 2018 NBA playoffs begin.

If LBJ averages more, he’ll reach that goal even sooner. If he continues his career pace, he’ll not just be the youngest, but the fastest player to reach 30,000 points.

Can LeBron James Pass Up Kareem?

Now that we’ve determined that it’s a certainty that LeBron will get his 30,000th point at some point this season, he has some steps to climb before we talk about him being the NBA’s all-time leading scorer ever.

It’s pretty solid that his scoring velocity will move him past Nowitzki next season depending on how much Dirk has left in the tank. Even though Nowitzki is still playing, the 7-0 German superstar has slowed significantly (and he wasn’t fast to begin with). We’re estimating that Dirk will average between 10-12 points this season and LeBron will score approximately 14-16 more points per game. At that rate, LeBron will pass up Nowitzki before the all-star break of 2018-19 season. In that same 2018-19 season, if he’s not injured, we’ll see LeBron pass up both Wilt (31,419) and MJ (32,292) at 34 years of age.

At the age of 35, LeBron would then pass up Kobe Bryant’s 33,643 points in the 2019-2020 season. Here’s what that rough guess looks like based on his career averages and factoring scoring declines as he ages.

LeBron James Approximate Scoring through 2021
season age points career
2017-18 33 1900 30,700
2018-19 34 1750 32,450
2019-20 35 1600 34,050
2020-21 36 1475 35,450

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Even though he keeps in fantastic shape, LeBron is still human. So even if LeBron played four more seasons; two elite seasons and two all-star level season, he would still be significantly short of Kareem’s 38,387 points. By our estimate, including this season, he’d have to play at least six or seven more seasons to even begin sniffing Kareem’s all-time record. Meaning he’d have to play injury-free and at a high-level until he was 38 or 39 years old.

Can LeBron Catch Kareem's 38,387 points?
season age points career Needs
2017-18 33 1900 30,700 -7,687
2018-19 34 1750 32,450 -5,937
2019-20 35 1600 34,050 -4,337
2020-21 36 1475 35,525 -2,852
2021-22 37 1375 36,900 -1,487
2022-23 38 1250 38,150 -227
2023-24 39 1000 39,150 +763

We don’t like underestimating LeBron’s will, but that is another seven years of full seasons of basketball just to get to Kareem’s record. No one can estimate what will happen, even for a younger player. And even with another seven NBA seasons, he might not even reach 40,000 points. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but really highlights how incredibly difficult it is achieve each milestone after 30,000 points.

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2 Comments

  • Mattias d'Ambrosio

    You have forgotten season 2020-2021 !

  • Oh my gosh. Yes, we did. I’ve edited and added some content. Thanks for the heads up on this.

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