Los Angeles Lakers

How soon could LeBron James pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for top spot on the all-time scorers list?

It once seemed impossible but then again, we should have known it was LeBron James we were talking about.

Entering year 19 in the NBA, James is still among the best three players in the world and arguably is the best of the lot.

With an overflowing trophy cabinet and list of accolades alongside his name, there is one record he remains in hot pursuit of. Currently third on the all-time scorers list, James trails Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with both in reach.

NBA all-time career scoring leaders
Points
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL, LAL) 38,387
Karl Malone (UTA, LAL) 36,928
LeBron James (CLE, MIA, LAL) 35,367
Kobe Bryant (LAL) 33,643
Michael Jordan (CHI) 32,292

James is just 1,561 points behind Malone for second spot. Posting scoring averages of 25.3 and 25.0 over the last two seasons, LeBron has failed to dip under 25 points a night since his rookie season. If we conservatively predict his average will remain dead on 25, it will take him 62.44 games to pass Malone.

With that in mind, James could miss up to 20 games during the regular season due to injury/load management and still end up in second spot on the list by the end of the regular season.

As it currently stands, LeBron is 3,020 points behind Kareem in first place. Based on the above calculation, James would need 120.8 regular-season games to catch Kareem.

Regular season games required to catch Abdul-Jabbar based on scoring average
20.0 ppg 22.5 ppg 25.0 ppg 27.5 ppg
LeBron James 151 134.2 120.8 109.8

Even cautious calculations based on LeBron's career numbers suggest the 2022-23 season is the projected timetable for the top spot on the all-time scoring list to change hands. Of course, health is the real road block, with recent seasons proving the superstar Laker is not totally invincible.

With 50,055 regular season and 11,035 postseason minutes already under his belt, the toll on his body has been extreme, with recent injuries to his groin and ankle leaving him on the sideline for extended periods over the last three campaigns. James missed 27 games in each of 2019 and 2021, the most he has missed in a single season across the course of his career.

Year 20 looms as the season to watch when it comes to this historic milestone. Kareem retired after year 20, though, it doesn't seem like James is slowing down at a rate fast enough to call it a day at the end of the 2023 season.

At this stage, who would rule out 40,000 points for LeBron?

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