LeBron James Set To Join 30,000-Point Club
By Brian Martin
Update (Jan. 20, 6 PM ET): LeBron James' run to the 30,000-point club will have to wait a few more days. He finished with 18 points in Cleveland's loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, leaving him seven points shy of becoming the seventh player to reach the milestone. The Cavs face the Spurs in San Antonio on Tuesday (8 ET, TNT) for his next shot at joining the elite scoring club.
If LeBron is able to break the record on Tuesday, he will do so at 33 years and 24 days old, still making him the youngest to reach the milestone by over a year ahead of Kobe Bryant. He would remain the fourth-fastest to join the club as Tuesday marks the 1,107th game of his career, just six more than it took the game's all-time leading scorer - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - to hit 30,000 points.
Below is the original article, published prior to Cleveland's game against OKC on Saturday.
LeBron James enters Saturday’s game against Oklahoma City needing just 25 points to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points.
Assuming he scores at least 25 against the Thunder on Saturday, LeBron will be the youngest player (33 years and 21 days) to reach the milestone and the fourth-fastest to do so (1,106 games) - trailing only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Youngest To Reach 30,000 Points
- LeBron James: 33 years, 21 days
- Kobe Bryant: 34 years, 104 days
- Wilt Chamberlain: 35 years, 179 days
- Karl Malone: 36 years, 189 days
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 36 years, 217 days
- Dirk Nowitzki: 38 years, 262 days
- Michael Jordan: 38 years, 321 days
"I'm joining elite company," James told reporters on Thursday. "When I walk into the 30,000-point club they're going to look at me like, 'What are you doing here?' I ain't supposed to be there."
In addition to Wilt, MJ and Kareem, the 30,000-point club also includes Karl Malone and two of LeBron’s contemporaries - the recently retired Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. Collectively, these six players have scored 203,477 points in the NBA.
Even on the verge of joining this elite group of scorers, LeBron sees himself as something different. He’s repeatedly said he doesn’t consider himself a scorer, but rather a playmaker that can put the ball in the hoop when needed.
The numbers back up that belief, as LeBron will become the only player in NBA history with at least 30,000 points, 7,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds. The fact that he’s on the precipice of 30,000 career points - not to mention his record 6,163 playoff points - while contributing all over the court every night is a testament to his consistency, durability and having a prime that defies what we’ve seen throughout history.
LeBron enters Saturday’s contest averaging 27.0 points per game in his 15th NBA season. He has averaged at least 25 points per game in each of the past 14 seasons; his only season below that mark was his rookie year when he averaged 20.9 points as a 19-year-old out of high school.
No player in NBA history has put together 14 straight seasons averaging at least 25 points per game. While LeBron does not have the same scoring peaks as Wilt (50.4 points per game in 1961-62), Jordan (37.1 in 1986-87) or Kobe (35.4 in 2005-06), his scoring has been astonishingly consistent.
The black line in the chart above represents LeBron’s career and it is the most horizontal line on the chart. Here’s a breakdown of the largest disparity between scoring averages within each player’s first 15 seasons (14 for Wilt as he only played 14 years in the NBA).
Difference Between Highest and Lowest Season Scoring Average (First 15 Seasons)
- Player: Low-High (Difference)
- LeBron James: 20.9-31.4 (10.5)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 21.5-34.8 (13.3)
- Karl Malone: 14.9-31.0 (16.1)
- Michael Jordan: 20.0-37.1 (17.1)
- Dirk Nowitzki: 8.2-26.6 (18.4)
- Kobe Bryant: 7.6-35.4 (27.8)
- Wilt Chamberlain: 13.2-50.4 (37.2)
Even if we throw out each player’s lowest season from their first 15 years - rookie season for Malone, Kobe, Dirk and LeBron, 15th season for Kareem and Jordan, 14th for Wilt - LeBron still has the smallest gap between his best and worst scoring seasons.
Difference Between Highest and Lowest Season Scoring Average (First 15 Season, Removing Lowest Season)
- Player: Low-High (Difference)
- LeBron James: 25.3-31.4 (6.1)
- Dirk Nowitzki: 17.5-26.6 (9.1)
- Karl Malone: 21.7-31.0 (9.3)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 21.8-34.8 (13.0)
- Michael Jordan: 22.9-37.1 (14.2)
- Kobe Bryant: 15.4-35.4 (20.0)
- Wilt Chamberlain: 14.8-50.4 (35.6)
LeBron is right when he says he doesn’t fit the definition of an elite scorer. His highest scoring average came in his third season at 31.4 points per game. That is the 34th highest scoring average for a single season in NBA history. There are 16 players that have posted higher scoring averages than LeBron, including seven players that have done so multiple times, led by Wilt (7x) and Jordan (6x) as well as 30,000-point club members Kobe and Kareem (2x each).
But no one has been a more consistent scorer for as long as LeBron. Consider this: LeBron has a career scoring average of 27.1 points over 1,105 games. Heading into the 45th game of his 15th season, he’s averaging 27.0 points this season. There is supposed to be a drop off. There is supposed to be a natural decline. Father Time is supposed to be undefeated. So far, LeBron James is putting up one heck of a fight against him.
LeBron already holds the distinction as the youngest player to reach 10,000 points and 20,000 points, and will likely add the 30,000-point plateau to that list on Saturday. Of course, this is not a fair comparison with most of the 30,000-point club. With the exception of Kobe Bryant, everyone that has reached this career milestone didn’t begin playing in the NBA until they were in their 20s.
So if we want to compare apples to apples, the real feat is that LeBron is the fourth fastest to reach this mark in terms of games played. What helped him climb the ladder so fast was not only the consistency that has already been discussed, but the fact that he put up big numbers from the day he set foot on an NBA court. It wasn’t until Kobe’s fourth season that he averaged over 20 points per game; LeBron did so in his rookie season.
Fewest Games To Reach 30,0000 Points
- Wilt Chamberlain: 941 games
- Michael Jordan: 960 games
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 1,101 games
- LeBron James: 1,106 games (includes Saturday)
- Karl Malone: 1,152 games
- Kobe Bryant: 1,180 games
- Dirk Nowitzki: 1,377 games
LeBron has also been extremely durable throughout his career; he has never played fewer than 84 percent of his team’s games during a season. He’s played at least 90 percent in 14 of his 15 seasons, including a perfect 100 percent of this year’s 44 games. Of all of his abilities, LeBron’s constant availability helps set him apart from his elite peers.
Anytime a milestone like this is achieved, the logical question is what will happen next? Will LeBron challenge Kareem as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer? He needs 8,413 more points to pass the Captain, which is a daunting task. In his first three full seasons back in Cleveland, LeBron has averaged 1,872 points per season. If he maintained that average, it would take another four-and-a-half seasons to reach the scoring pinnacle. Assuming LeBron’s scoring starts to decline as he enters his mid-to-late 30s, it would likely take five more seasons to realistically challenge that mark.
Can he become the only player to rank in the top five all-time in both scoring and assists? He’s already the first to rank in the top 20 in points (7th), assists (12th) and steals (18th).
We don’t know where the numbers will end up or how much longer LeBron will play to keep climbing up the charts. All we can do is appreciate what he’s doing and recognize that it may be a long time before we see a career like this again.