We can probably safely say LeBron James will inch no closer to Michael Jordan in the rings portion of the GOAT debate this season, given that his Los Angeles Lakers have been all but eliminated from playoff contention. Nevertheless, James has surpassed Jordan in yet another statistical category, unseating “His Airness” in fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
James finished Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers needing just 13 points to eclipse Jordan’s 32,292 career points. He moved past “the ghost in Chicago” with a layup in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
“For a kid from Akron, Ohio that needed inspiration … MJ was that guy for me.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 7, 2019
“A lot of stuff that I have done in my career, this ranks right up there at the top with winning a championship,” James said. “For a kid from Akron, Ohio, that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me. I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ.
“It’s crazy, to be honest. It’s beyond crazy.”
He paid homage to Jordan with the shoes he wore while passing him on the scoring list, too.
— NBA KICKS (@NBAKicks) March 7, 2019
Next up for James on this list: Kobe Bryant, whose 33,643 career points are safe in third place for at least one more season.
Yeah, but how many more games did it take LeBron?
James reached his latest benchmark in the 1,190th game of his career, nearing the end of his 16th season. Jordan submitted his regular-season scoring résumé in 1,072 games over 15 seasons. (As long as we’re comparing numbers: James will almost surely reach Bryant’s level in fewer games, as the longtime Laker posted his numbers in 1,346 games over 20 seasons.)
Already the youngest player to reach 10,000 points, 20,000 points and 30,000 points, James is naturally the youngest to reach this height in NBA history, too — 66 days past his 34th birthday.
Can LeBron catch Kareem?
The larger question now is whether he can catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record of 38,387 points. (Karl Malone stands between Bryant and Abdul-Jabbar with 36,928 points.) At his current career pace of 27.1 points per game, James would catch Abdul-Jabbar in some 225 more games — roughly three more seasons. If LeBron achieves his stated goal of playing until he can share an NBA court with his eldest son, essentially playing until he’s 40 years old, he can catch Abdul-Jabbar and maybe even start the 40,000-point club at a slower pace.
James surpassed Jordan as the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer in May 2017. (It took him 33 more playoff games to get there.) In all likelihood, he will not add to that total this season.
For those keeping statistical tabs at home, James, who recently dubbed himself the GOAT, now has more career points, rebounds and assists than Jordan. He trails Jordan in rings, 6-3.
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