By John Schuhmann
LeBron James is 18 points away from being the 38th player in NBA history to reach the 20,000-point mark. At 28 years and 17 days old, he'll be the youngest to do it by more than a year.
James has evolved as a player since he entered the league as an 18-year-old in 2003. But from the start, he's been one of the most unique players in NBA history. You see it in the way he plays the game, but also in his numbers.
James doesn't quite score like a big man, but he doesn't score like a typical perimeter scorer either. Of his 19,982 points, 66 percent have come in the paint or at the free throw line. Of the top scorers of the past 10-15 years, that's a higher mark than anyone but Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan or Dwyane Wade.
Scoring from different areas of the floor
* Since 1996-97
James does most of his scoring on his own. Of his 19,982 points, 14,251 have come on unassisted field goals (9,540) or on free throws (4,711). In fact, since he came in the league, he's had more unassisted field goals (4,518) than any other player in the league. Kobe Bryant ranks second with 4,102.
So, even though he spent seven seasons with one franchise (Cleveland), no teammate has assisted James on more than 630 of his points. (For comparison, note that Steve Nash assisted Amar'e Stoudemire on 2,315 of his points.)
Most assists to James
This season, James ranks third (behind Bryant and Russell Westbrook) with 217 unassisted field goals, but he's having his best shooting season of his career. In fact, James is shooting a career high from almost every area of the floor this season. And his overall field goal percentage has increased each of the last six seasons.
LeBron James, shooting by area
|Restricted Area||Paint (Non-RA)||Mid-Range||Corner 3||Above Break 3|
James has scored more total points in the first quarter than any other period, but that's a product of minutes. On a per-minute basis, he does turn the scoring up a notch in the fourth quarter or overtime.
LeBron James, scoring by quarter
Because he spent seven seasons in the Central Division, James has scored more points against the Milwaukee Bucks (1,030), Chicago Bulls (1,000) and Indiana Pacers (951) than any other team. But on a per-game basis, James has torched the Utah Jazz more than any other opponent.
LeBron James, highest scoring average by opponent
What team has held James to the fewest points per game? The Los Angeles Clippers: 23.4.
At his career pace of 27.6 points per game, James would need 245 more games to surpass Oscar Robertson (26,710), who currently ranks 10th on the all-time scoring list. At this season's pace of 26.0 points per game, he'd need 259 more games. But between James and Robertson are six other active players, including Dirk Nowitzki (24,293), who could reach the top 10 before James does with a couple of full, healthy seasons.
At a pace of 26.0 points per game, James need 385 more games (4.7 seasons) to reach the 30,000-point plateau, which Bryant just surpassed last month. So if he doesn't miss too many games, James could do that in the middle of the 2017-18 season, right around his 33rd birthday.
After that, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is just 8,387 points away. And if James could somehow stay healthy and keep a 26.0 points-per-game pace up, he could become the all-time leading scorer at the tender age of 37.