Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has set numerous records through his 16 NBA seasons but the one he achieves Wednesday will stand out as particularly significant. With the Denver Nuggets coming to town, James sits just 12 points away from Michael Jordan for fourth place on the NBA all-time scoring list.
There’s no question that James is a transcendent star, branching out into numerous ventures while cementing his spot as one of the most popular athletes on the planet. And yet, the specter of Jordan has always loomed large.
With most agreeing that Jordan stands alone as the greatest basketball player to ever take to the hardwood, James, like Kobe Bryant before him, has been constantly compared to the Chicago Bulls legend. The bar set by Jordan is set ridiculously high, but in the ever-confident minds of stars like James, Bryant, and others who have sought the throne, catching the GOAT isn’t an impossible task.
And so, when James passes Jordan on the all-time scoring list it will be another piece of evidence in the case to prove that the King is indeed a worthy heir to the throne. There’s more to the game than putting the ball in the basket but points scored is often what sets apart the best from the rest, and so James passing Jordan is indeed something that matters.
Heading into Wednesday night’s matchup, through 16 NBA seasons, James has netted 32,280 points. He’s drained 1,712 threes and 7,098 free throws to get there while hitting 50 percent of his shots in his career.
James’ efficiency is perhaps only overshadowed by his remarkable durability. Until a groin injury this season, he has been nearly invulnerable, missing only a handful of games here and there despite racking up an absurd average of 38.6 minutes per game for his career.
Moving into fourth place is a remarkable achievement, and puts James on pace to catch up to Bryant (33,643 points) for third place next season. It’s also not out of the question for James to someday take over first place from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored 38,387 points, a feat that many thought would never be duplicated.
James has averaged just over 2,000 points per season in his career, so health permitting, he could take over the all-time scoring lead while still on his current Lakers contract.
Unfortunately, James’ milestone comes at a time when the Lakers are in the midst of a storm of negativity. They find themselves outside of the playoffs for the sixth season in a row and a series of losses to sub-.500 teams has extinguished all hope of them making a miraculous run. Besieged by a relentless string of injuries all season, the Lakers, who had dreams of putting things back on track with a team built around James, will have yet another long summer to try again at reloading.
In that context, James passing Jordan will be somewhat overshadowed by the dark cloud currently fixed over the franchise, and that’s regrettable. It’s a historic individual accomplishment that will, unfortunately, occur in a game that no longer matters in regards to the playoff race or the current NBA season.
For that moment, however, the disappointment of a difficult campaign needs to be set aside. James is one of the very best to ever play the game and the opportunity to celebrate that should be seized. Nothing lasts forever. Cherish the moment for what it is, even if the storm outside continues to rage.
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