As he gathered with family for a holiday meal last week, LeBron James had plenty of reasons to give thanks.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ 34-year-old superstar has remained healthy so far this season after missing 27 games last year with a sprained left groin. The Lakers (17-3) are off to their best start since 2009-10 and have a good shot at winning an NBA championship for the first time since that season. And James already has played well enough in his 17th season that he believes he is currently playing his best basketball.
Here is something that might leave James feeling more grateful: He appears on the verge of adding more accomplishments to a Hall-of-Fame résumé that already includes three NBA championships, three Finals MVPs, four regular-season MVPs, 15 All-Star appearances and nine Finals appearances.
He needs 588 more points to pass former Lakers star Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Should James maintain his season average of 25.7 points per game, he will surpass Bryant’s 33,643 career points in 23 games. Based on that timeline, James would pass Bryant in Brooklyn on Jan. 23. Should he stay mostly healthy and maintain his career scoring average (27.1), James would likely need to play at least two more seasons to top Karl Malone (36,928 points) for second and four more seasons to eclipse Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) as the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
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The ironic part: James has defined himself during his career more as a play-maker than a scorer. Meanwhile, Bryant and Michael Jordan often thrived on scoring through any amount of defensive pressure. In related news, James will also climb the NBA’s all-time assists leaderboard soon.
He currently ranks 10th with 8,879 assists, but he will soon surpass Gary Payton (8,966), Isiah Thomas (9,061) and perhaps even Chris Paul (9,290) this season. Assuming he maintains his season average of 11 per game, James should top Payton and Thomas at some point in the middle of this season. Paul, who is currently with the Oklahoma City Thunder in his 15th season, has stayed healthy and productive thus far. Considering Paul’s extensive injury history though, James could make up enough ground to climb ahead of his close friend either late this season or early next season. James should also eclipse Oscar Robertson (9,887 assists) next season and Magic Johnson (10,141), Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) in two years. It seems like a stretch James could surpass Jason Kidd (12,091) and John Stockton (15,806).
"I’ve been fortunate to be able to play with great teammates and great coaches in three great organizations so far in my career," James said. "I just hope I make anyone who has followed my career proud."
James has done that plenty of times in his career. And fairly soon, James will write his name a few more times in the NBA’s history books.
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