LeBron James: The Quest to Basketball Immortality

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LeBron James and Achieving Basketball Immortality. Ask even the most casual of basketball fans to name a player, and LeBron James is usually the first name brought up. He’s regularly considered, at worst, to be a top-5 NBA player of all time. His list of accolades is so long it could use a list of its own. 

Four-time NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020). Also, a four-time NBA Finals MVP (2012, 2013, 2014, 2020). Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). 19-time NBA All-Star (2005-2023). 13-time All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008-2018, 2020). He has also received NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA Scoring Champion (2008), and the NBA Assists Leader (2020). Named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Oh, and he’s a two-time gold medalist at the Olympic Games (2008, 2012).

lebron james

LeBron James has achieved more in his career than nearly any other NBA player in existence. He’s a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang it up. But there’s one record, previously thought to be unbreakable, that LeBron James is on pace to break within the next ten days.

NBA legend and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the record for career points scored since April 5th, 1984.

Abdul-Jabbar scored an unfathomable 38,387 points in his career. LeBron James has closed the gap to 116 points. James did not play on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets, meaning that he should break the record, given his current pace of 30.2 points per game, in Los Angeles on February 7th.

The fact that LeBron James has actually gotten to this point – seizing the scoring crown away from the record holder who’d held it for nearly four decades – is miraculous. Lest we forget, he was the first overall draft pick in 2003. He was coming straight out of high school. The pressure on him was immense – perhaps more pressure than any other number-one overall pick has ever had. He wasn’t just the anointed next “great one” – he was drafted by his hometown team and expected to carry them over to their first-ever NBA championship. Cleveland, of all cities, has historically been a long-suffering town for championship-winning teams.

The truth is that records are meant to be broken. 

Hakeem Olajuwon

Steph Curry set the career three-point mark last season – though it always felt inevitable he would break the record given his propensity for scoring from long range. Now and again, we get an unusual record that falls that most people don’t really care about. LeBron James is the record holder for most career turnovers (who cares?), though that record could easily fall to James Harden or Russell Westbrook if they play as long as LeBron has.

But in terms of the records even casual viewers care about, you rarely see movement. The points record has been held for nearly four decades. The rebounds records haven’t moved since Wilt Chamberlain racked up a bonkers 23,924 rebounds more than 50 years ago. Assists and steals records set by John Stockton likely won’t be touched in the near future. Don’t even get started on blocks. Hakeem Olajuwon holds that record (3,830 blocks). The next closest active player to that is Serge Ibaka (1,759 blocks). 

Barring a transcendent player like LeBron coming into the league as a teenager, immediately dominating, AND staying healthy through the majority of his career, we might never see a record chase like his in this century. (Looking at you, Victor Wembanyama). 

NBA

The truth is that career statistics haven’t really mattered much to anyone outside of the box score aficionados and stat keepers. How many casual fans know who Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is? Or Hakeem Olajuwon?

It’s not a disappointment if those other records don’t receive the same kind of chase that LeBron has pursued Kareem’s. If anything at all, the unlikelihood of those records being challenged makes LeBron’s likelihood of passing Kareem even more fascinating.

By the time LeBron retires, assuming he plays until he’s 40+ years old, he will have accumulated at least 22 years of service in NBA. Meaning the record for points should be over 40,000 and likely as untouchable as we previously thought Kareem’s was.

So rather than lament the records that are largely etched into the theoretical stone of an NBA court, let’s instead celebrate LeBron’s effort as he achieves basketball immortality. 

Catie Di Stefano has worked in the gambling industry since 2011 for major brands like Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Gaming Innovation Group and Betsson Group. She started in customer support at age 19 and has since worked her way through VIP, CRM and Marketing. Today, Catie is passionate about educating players on consumer rights and the best approaches for legal play in the United States as the Director of Community Marketing at OnlineGamblers.com. Catie was born in Indonesia but grew up in Sweden. Currently, she resides in Spain with her two daughters.

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