NBA

LeBron on top as Lakers dominance continues – The numbers behind James' new NBA record

By Sports Desk February 08, 2023

LeBron James brought the NBA to a standstill on Tuesday. Even the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was paused.

With 38 points at Crypto.com Arena, James moved to 38,390 in his regular season career, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long-standing record of 38,387.

The four-time champion has been the league's pre-eminent star across stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat and the Lakers.

Now, across basketball history, he stands alone.

It is a remarkable achievement and only becomes more impressive when delving into the numbers behind James' new record.

Beating the Thunder

The Thunder may have put a slight dampener on James' big night by winning Tuesday's game, but the 38-year-old actually has more career points than Oklahoma City's entire active roster combined (21,900).

Indeed, the Thunder are merely one of five rosters James can better, along with the Indiana Pacers (36,515), the Orlando Magic (33,164), the San Antonio Spurs (32,364) and the Houston Rockets (28,642).

Had James not got over the line on Tuesday, he would have done instead against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday – and that would have been fitting, too.

James has scored more points against the Bucks (1,751) than against any other team. In fact, the Thunder (994) are the team he has scored the third-fewest against – more only than against the Lakers (829) and the Cavaliers (580), two teams he represented.

The Lakers forward scored at least 1,000 points against each of the other 27 teams, while he has scored 1,000 in each of his 20 NBA seasons. That is another record he has taken from Abdul-Jabbar (19).

James would have no doubt enjoyed being able to achieve this legendary feat in front of a home crowd, but he has actually scored more points on the road (19,251 in 694 games) than at home (19,139 in 716).

Unsurprisingly, however, Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is the arena to have seen the most James points (11,670). The Lakers' Crypto.com Arena (4,649) nudged ahead of the Heat's Miami-Dade Arena (4,613) into second place on Tuesday.

Wade's helping hand

In that home crowd in LA, sitting in front of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, was Dwyane Wade, a two-time title-winning team-mate of James' on the Heat.

Wade also joined James on the Cavaliers for a season and, although now retired, has assisted more points for the new all-time scoring leader than any other player (776).

Eric Snow (630) is second on that list, with Mario Chalmers (591) third and Mo Williams (501) fourth, followed by Kevin Love (486) and Kyrie Irving (469).

Russell Westbrook has only been playing with James in LA since 2021, but he is ninth on 375. Anthony Davis (269) is 11th and Chris Bosh (267) 12th.

Ricky Davis assisted James' first NBA points and 42 altogether. Davis, who retired in 2010, was the first of 148 different players to assist James.

But the bulk of James' points have been unassisted, of course. His 26,855 unassisted points alone would rank him 13th in the all-time list, ahead of Kevin Durant (26,684), who is second to the Lakers man among active players.

James has scored 10,882 points from layups, 8,074 from two-point jump shots and 8,047 from free throws. Of the rest, 6,711 have come from three-pointers, 4,190 from dunks, 310 from hook shots and 176 from tip-ins.

Another Lakers record

The record was reached with a fadeaway jumper, and several members of Lakers royalty were in the house to see it – including Abdul-Jabbar.

James followed Abdul-Jabbar as the seventh different player to lead the NBA in all-time scoring since the end of the league's first season in 1946-47.

Four of those seven have now represented the Lakers, with James and Abdul-Jabbar joined by George Mikan (1952-53 to 1957-58) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-66 to 1983-84). Chamberlain took ownership of the record while a Philadelphia 76er, before playing for the Lakers.

Chamberlain succeeded Bob Pettit, one of the remaining three who did not turn out for the Lakers. Joe Fulks, the leading scorer in the NBA's first season, and Dolph Schayes are the others.

Luka Doncic, just 23 and with 8,531 points through 311 career games, is perhaps the most credible challenger to James' crown. James had 8,319 points through 311 games, albeit he was only 22.

Matching James' longevity is a huge ask; either way, he will be number one for a long, long time.

Time spent at the top is a record Abdul-Jabbar can at least retain for now, having ranked first in scoring for a mammoth 14,187 days. The NBA was only 13,671 days old when he took the record, meaning he led the league for more than half of its existence.

Still more to achieve

That is not the only Abdul-Jabbar mark that remains, with the 75-year-old out in front on 57,446 minutes played. James (53,743) is third, while he is tied for ninth in games played (1,410) – a statistic led by Robert Parish (1,611).

Abdul-Jabbar is the man to beat for MVP awards, too, with six, and James' four appear unlikely to be added to now, given his age and the Lakers' woes.

James should pass Abdul-Jabbar for All-Star selections, though, as the pair are tied on 19, while the modern great already has a leading 13 All-NBA First Team selections.

In the playoffs, James already topped the charts for points (7,631) and games played (266), although the 'GOAT' debate will rage on as Michael Jordan has the edge in Finals MVPs (six to James' four).

Among players with 500 or more games, Jordan (30.1) is also the leading man for points per game in the regular season, even if James (27.2 in fifth) is averaging 30.2 this year, the third-highest mark of his career.

At that rate, even if James cannot reel in Jordan, he should be able to establish a considerable buffer to any and all pretenders to his new crown.

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