One of the NBA’s most notable records fell last season, when LeBron James eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring mark, and it is no surprise the 20-year veteran once again headlines our annual look at the records that could be broken — with four more that add perspective to his 38,652 career points.
We will get to the many milestones ahead this NBA season for Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Luka Dončić and Jayson Tatum, among other growing NBA legends, but first …
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What else can LeBron James add to his legacy?
In his 21st season, James can set NBA career records for:
Minutes played (regular season and playoffs combined)
Games played (regular season and playoffs combined)
Field goals attempted (regular season)
Field goals missed (regular season)
James already owns playoff records for minutes and games played. He is third and ninth on the respective regular-season lists. (A similar workload to last season’s 1,954 minutes would double the 759 minutes he needs to pass Karl Malone for second on the regular-season ledger.) Combine regular season and playoffs, and there is a chance James will have played more basketball at its highest level than anyone ever. Abdul-Jabbar’s 66,297 minutes over 1,797 games are the standard. James needs 550 minutes and 94 games to break both. He played 71 of the 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers’ 98 games in the regular season and playoffs.
For reference, James is nearing the equivalent of 11,000 hours — or 46 full days and nights — played.
James needs only 263 more field-goal attempts to break Abdul-Jabbar’s regular-season career record of 28,307. James will also surpass Kobe Bryant’s career regular-season mark of 14,481 missed field goals with 589 more. (James missed 610 of his 1,219 field-goal attempts last season.) Put another way, James has taken 1,844 more shots than Bryant and missed 589 fewer — a vast difference in scoring efficiency.
James is also:
1,348 points shy of 40,000 for his career.
580 assists shy of 11,000 for his career.
333 rebounds shy of 11,000 for his career.
252 free-throw attempts shy of Shaquille O’Neal (11,252) for third on the all-time list.
291 free throws made shy of Bryant (8,378) for third on the all-time list.
121 steals shy of Scottie Pippen (2,307) for seventh on the all-time list.
By season’s end, James could rank first in scoring, top-five in assists, top-10 in steals, top-30 in rebounds and top-75 in blocks, forming a 40,000-11,000-11,000 club that may forever feature a membership of one.
Kevin Durant’s entrance into the all-time scoring list’s top 10
In an illustration of the career numbers gap between James and the NBA field, Durant — one of the most lethal scoring weapons in the game’s history — is sitting on 26,892 points, 13th on the all-time list.
Simply by recreating last season, when he scored 1,366 points in just 47 games, Durant would surpass Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946), Elvin Hayes (27,313) and Moses Malone (27,409) to move into the top 10. If he maintains last season’s average of 26 points over, say, 66 games, the 35-year-old would also leave Carmelo Anthony (28,289) in his wake and challenge O’Neal (28,596) for eighth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
James Harden, Russell Westbrook and a weird NBA territory
Former (and possibly future teammates) Harden and Westbrook are respectively 307 and 543 points shy of becoming the 24th and 25th players ever to score 25,000 for their regular-season careers. Neither has scored fewer than 753 in any one season. (That is nearly 80,000 points for Durant, Westbrook and Harden, the ex-Thunder trio that reached a single NBA Finals together. Sorry, Oklahoma City faithful.)
Harden is 219 made 3-pointers short of Ray Allen (2,973) for second on the all-time list behind Stephen Curry. Harden has hit that number five times in his career, but he has not approached so many since 2020. He also needs only four more triple-doubles to pass Wilt Chamberlain (78) for seventh on the all-time list.
These are the good marks for Harden and Westbrook. Now for a less distinguished record. Westbrook is 81 turnovers behind Karl Malone for second in regular-season history — in 377 fewer games than the Mailman. Harden is 266 turnovers shy of becoming the sixth player ever to record 4,000 turnovers and could climb as high as fifth on the all-time list. Westbrook registered 255 turnovers last season. Harden finished with 195.
Westbrook may also become the 17th player to attempt 20,000 field goals (and the 10th to miss 12,000).
Chris Paul’s pursuit of Jason Kidd’s legacy
Chris Paul needs 590 assists and 140 steals to catch Jason Kidd for second place on both all-time lists. Paul has recorded more than 590 assists in a season 10 times in his 18-year career, including two of his last three seasons. He has also registered more than 140 steals nine times but not since the 2015-16 campaign.
Kidd’s last big assists season came in 2010-11, when he amassed 655 and won his first championship as a 37-year-old Dallas Maverick. Can Paul achieve similar success at age 38 for the Golden State Warriors?
What’s wild: Even if Paul catches Kidd in both statistical categories, he will still be 3,715 assists and 581 steals — or another five-plus great seasons — behind John Stockton’s seemingly unbreakable records.
Jayson Tatum, Luka Dončić and this season’s scoring benchmarks
These scoring milestones are easily within reach this season:
Damian Lillard needs 624 points to become the 51st member of the 20,000-point club.
Jrue Holiday needs 124 points to become the 151st member of the 15,000-point club.
Kevin Love needs 186 points to join the same 15,000-point club.
Jayson Tatum needs 135 points to reach 10,000 for his career.
Luka Dončić needs 900 points to score the 10,000th of his career
Tatum scored 9,865 points through his first six seasons. Had he scored 135 more before the end of last season, he would have been the sixth-fastest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points — behind only James, Durant, Bryant, Anthony and Tracy McGrady. The offseason will cost Tatum at least four spots on that list. If he maintains his scoring average from last season, he will reach 10,000 points 246 days after his 25th birthday, 10th-fastest. Only 14 players have scored 10,000 points before turning 26 years old:
1. LeBron James (23 years, 59 days)
2. Kevin Durant (24 years, 33 days)
3. Kobe Bryant (24 years, 194 days)
4. Carmelo Anthony (24 years, 251 days)
5. Tracy McGrady (24 years, 272 days)
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo (25 years, 45 days)
7. Devin Booker (25 years, 60 days)
8. Dwight Howard (25 years, 95 days)
9. Bob McAdoo (25 years, 137 days)
10. Anthony Davis (25 years, 255 days)
11. Shaquille O’Neal (25 years, 341 days)
T12. Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (25 years, 343 days)
14. Chris Bosh (25 years, 358 days)
Dončić has yet to turn 25 years old. His 32.4 points per game last season would get him the 900 points he needs to hit 10,000 in 28 more games, some time around Christmas (or at the age of 24 years, 300 days). That would make Dončić the sixth-fastest in league history to 10,000 points and the sixth to do it at age 24.
If this does not put into perspective LeBron’s scoring record, nothing will. These guys are blazing to 10,000 and almost two entire years off the record pace of LeBron, who still averages close to 30 points per game.
Another interesting wrinkle to Dončić’s season: With only three more triple-doubles, he will have as many in his first six seasons as Larry Bird logged in his whole career. Only eight players have more than Bird’s 59 career triple-doubles, and four are still padding their numbers: Westbrook, James, Nikola Jokić and Harden.
Of course, Bird once wrote of the popularization of the triple-double statistic: “If that’s all anyone wanted me to do, I honestly believe I could get a triple-double in at least 41 of the 82 games played every year.”
Other benchmarks that can be reached this season:
Damian Lillard needs 173 3-pointers to catch Reggie Miller (2,560) for fourth on the all-time list.
Klay Thompson needs nine 3-pointers to pass Jamal Crawford (2,221) for 10th on the all-time list.
Nikola Jokić (105) needs 34 triple-doubles to pass LeBron James (107), Jason Kidd (107) and Magic Johnson (138) for third on the all-time list behind Russell Westbrook (198) and Oscar Robertson (181).
James Harden needs four triple-doubles to catch Wilt Chamberlain (78) for seventh on the all-time list.
Andre Drummond needs 37 rebounds to become the 43rd member of the 10,000-rebound club.
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