This Day In Lakers History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Passes Elvin Hayes For Most Minutes In NBA History
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lakers
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most accomplished players to ever suit up in the NBA, and the former Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks big man is arguably most famous for scoring the most points in the history of the league, a feat that will likely never be topped.

But one Abdul-Jabbar achievement that probably doesn’t get talked about enough was the Hall-of-Famer’s longevity. Abdul-Jabbar played in 1,560 games over his 20-year career, and he accrued an all-time leading 57,446 minutes over that timespan.

Abdul-Jabbar took that lead on Feb. 14, 1986, and never looked back, jumping past Elvin Hayes’ then-NBA record of 50,000 minutes in the Lakers’ 141-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Abdul-Jabbar went on to play three more full seasons in which he compiled nearly 8,000 more minutes of action.

His scoring title is often talked about as unreachable, and it probably is, but his minutes title is arguably even more unbreakable. The next closest in minutes to Abdul-Jabbar is his fellow former Lakers big man Karl Malone, who finished his exceedingly durable career with nearly 3,000 minutes less than Abdul-Jabbar despite only playing in just 84 fewer games.

Jason Kidd came closest in recent years, but he still only managed 50,110 minutes during 1,391 NBA games, while Hayes (50,000), Kevin Garnett (49,863) and Dirk Nowitzki (50,102) round out the league’s top-five in minutes all-time. Kobe Bryant ranks 10th in league history with 46,774 career minutes.

Nowitzki, who could apparently play until he’s 81 years old based on his ageless jumper, is the closest active player to the record. But he still trails Abdul-Jabbar by a wide margin and ranks 16th all-time in NBA history.

Given current NBA rest trends in which teams try to save their players from accruing unnecessarily high minutes totals, it seems more and more unlikely by the year that anyone will ever touch Abdul-Jabbar’s record, making it just another untouchable mark for the perpetually underrated Lakers legend.

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