After all, who, if anyone, could surpass LeBron James?
For the first time since 1984, the NBA has a new scoring champion. Lebron James Kareem Abdul-Jabbar officially entered the record books on Tuesday. In his 20th season, James is averaging a solid 30 points a night. For his career, James has averaged 27.2 points per game, and it took him 1,410 games to overtake Kareem for the all-time record. And if you’re a moron who doesn’t appreciate the present, your first question after LeBron’s incredible performance is: Who will be next to break the record?
We’re going to look at some of the biggest names (and top scorers) in the game, but first we need to establish where James will finish on points. Right now, we’re not exactly sure how much longer LeBron will be playing. And somehow he’s averaged the last two seasons more Points than his career average despite being on the wrong side of 35 and fast approaching his season at age 40.
From the start of the 2020 season to the day he broke the record, James has played in just over 69% of the Lakers’ regular season games. We’re going to use this as our baseline for how many appearances LeBron will make in a season for the rest of his career, including the rest of this one. James is under contract until next 2024 and has a player option for the 24/25 season, when he turns 40. While LeBron has flirted with the idea of playing much longer — maybe to 45, like Tom Brady — for purposes of this exercise, let’s assume James is playing through his 41-year season. That gives him the opportunity to play alongside his son, Bronny, while also presuming that LeBron will walk away while still at All-Star level, rather than joining a new roster as some sort of super-roleplayer.
So let’s say James plays in 69% of the Lakers’ 27 remaining games after February 7th. That would give him about 19 more games in 2023. Since LeBron has been healthier this year and the Lakers are in the playoff hunt, let’s be generous and say he’s playing in 21 games at the stretch. If James keeps his current point average, that means he’ll add about 630 points for the rest of this year.
For his last three hypothetical years, 69% round up from 246 (82 times three) to about 170 games. Allowing for a small drop from this year, we’ll say that James averaged his career grade of 27.2 for that 170. That adds another 4,624 points to LeBron’s total until his fake retirement. So if we add up the 5,254 points we estimate James will score after February. 7 by 2026 we get a total of 43,644.
Steph Curry is already the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointer play. But he would have to stay on the pitch for a long time to top the all-time goalscorer list.
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Stephen Curry currently has 21,183 points and a career scoring average of 24.5 points per game. At this rate, he would have to play 917 more games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If he was playing 82 games a year, it would still take him over 11 seasons to catch James. That would put Curry into his 47-year season, and that’s if he doesn’t miss games. Even if Steph was averaging 30 a night, playing all 82 to catch James would still get him into a 10th season.
Kevin Durant currently has 26,684 points and a career scoring average of 27.3 points per game. At this rate, he would need to play 622 more games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If Durant — who hasn’t had a healthy season since 2019 — played 82 games a year, it would still take him over seven seasons to catch James. Durant would have to play every game up until his season at age 42 to catch James. If Durant only plays 60 games a year, it would take him over 10 seasons, or in his 45-year season, to catch LeBron.
Luka Doncic currently has 8,531 points and a career scoring average of 27.4 points per game. In the first five seasons of his career, he played about 85% of his team’s games, which equates to about 70 games per season. At a pace of 27.4 points, Doncic would need 1,282 more games to catch James. If he plays 70 games a season, it would take Luka over 18 seasons to catch LeBron. That means Doncic would have to play until he was 42 to catch James.
If Victor Wembenyama has a career scoring average of 25.0 — which would be 11th all-time and higher than Kobe Bryant — it would take him 1,746 games to catch our hypothetical version of LeBron. If Wembenyama plays literally every game in the regular season – all 82 each year – it would still take him over 21 seasons to match James. Ironman Wemby would have to play until he was 41 to catch LeBron — and that’s if he’s scoring 25 points a night and not missing a game. Much luck.