LeBron James has been a star from roughly the minute he entered the NBA in 2003, and over that time he's accomplished a heck of a lot. As a player who can do pretty much anything he wishes on the court, LeBron has accrued a lot of numbers over that time, and in his 10th season he's starting to hit some impressive round numbers as part of his natural assault on the NBA record books.
On Wednesday night in Oakland, James hit two of those marks against the Golden State Warriors in the midst of a blowout 92-75 win. Five minutes into the game, he found a cutting Dwyane Wade for an easy dunk to notch his 5,000th assist. Later, with just over 2:45 left in the first half, LeBron dribbled to his right and knocked down a pull-up jumper to become the youngest player to 20,000 points in NBA history.
LeBron finished the game with 25 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in just 30 minutes of play. Watch his historic basket above, and check out the assist after the jump.
On a certain level, these seem like minor accomplishments for LeBron. At 28, he's young enough to hit much rarer milestones in his career. But a closer look at league history reveals just how special James's career has already been. LeBron topped 5,000 rebounds in November, which means he now one of just 12 players with 20,000 points, 5,000 boards, and 5,000 assists. He's the youngest to join that club, naturally, and figures to join even more exclusive multi-stat groups in the future. He may even create a few of his own.
James, for his part, is not crowing about his stats. From Brian Windhhorst for ESPN.com (published before Wednesday's game):
“Getting the 5,000 assists seems like more of an accomplishment to me than the scoring,” James said. “Chris Paul just got his 5,000th assist [last month] and it’s cool to have the chance to join him. I never have seen myself as a scorer.” [...]
All of this is great fodder for examining where James is historically now that he has been playing for a decade. But when reflecting this week, he took a different viewpoint.
“It means I’ve been able to stay healthy,” said James.
That’s quite true. Since entering the NBA in 2003-04, James has missed only 33 games. He has missed fewer than 25 with actual injury, the remaining coming when sitting out games at the end of the past four seasons to rest up before playoff series. The most games he has missed for a single injury was five, when he injured his hand during a game early in the 2007-08 season. He has never missed a playoff game, playing in 115 in a row. [...]
“I’ve been able to play at a high level and I’ve had teammates that have allowed me to do it,” James said. “I don’t force scoring, it is not a main part of my game. When people are having conversations about the best scorers in the game, my name never comes up in that case.”
LeBron doesn't act as if he's done nothing, but it's also clear that he feels lucky to have had good teammates and stayed healthier than the average player. He's certainly partly responsible for that luck, because he makes his teammates better and is a physical freak. Nevertheless, James is grateful, or at least knows to profess he is in public.
There are always going to be people who think "championships won" is the only meaningful stat in LeBron's career, but there's no easy way to downplay the milestones that he reached tonight. We're looking at one of the most talented players in NBA history.