Can LeBron James pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer?

Joshua Rogers September 15, 2021
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently spoke to Marc Stein about his NBA scoring record. During the conversation, Kareem discussed the possibility of LeBron James eventually passing him on the all-time list. But can – or will – LeBron actually pass Kareem?

Kareem speaks about possibility of LeBron James passing him on all-time scoring list

Abdul-Jabbar is one of the best basketball players ever, with a legitimate argument as being the best high-school, college, and NBA player ever.

He has a record 19 All-Star game appearances, has won a record six MVP awards, and won five NBA Championships (one in Milwaukee, five in LA with the Lakers).

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The 7ft 2in giant was an offensive juggernaut, not only playing the most minutes in NBA history (57,446), but possessing one of the most unstoppable moves in league history, the skyhook.

However, perhaps Kareem’s greatest stat is his record 38,387 career points.

Jabbar recently spoke with Marc Stein about the record, and the possibility of LeBron James passing it.

He said: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it.

“It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less.

“We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

LeBron’s current place on all-time list

LeBron James is heading into his 19th year in the league, and his status among the all-time greats was established long ago.

While primarily seen as a facilitator, James’ scoring numbers are elite, being the fastest player to reach 35,000 points (1,295 games), as well as the youngest to do so (36 years, 50 days).

LeBron turns 37 in December 2021, and currently sits third on the all-time scoring list with 35,367 points.

Sitting above him in second place is Karl Malone, who has 36,928 career points.

Last season, LeBron averaged 25 points per game.

If he continues at that clip, he will pass Karl Malone after 63 games this season (there are 82 in total).

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

But can LeBron pass Kareem?

LeBron is currently 3,020 points behind Kareem as the all-time leading scorer.

There’s pretty much no way LeBron can get that this year – only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have ever scored that many points in a single season.

The most points LeBron has ever scored in a season was 2,478 in 2005-06 with the Cavs.

However, LeBron hasn’t averaged below 25 points in any season since his rookie year (his career average is 27 PPG).

His career scoring average per season is 1,964 points, and with the Lakers it’s 1,443 points per season.

If he continues at 25 points per game, LeBron can pass Kareem by mid-to-late 2023 (he is under contract with the Lakers until the end of the 2023 season).

Essentially, if LeBron carries on at the rate he is and stays healthy, he can pass Abdul-Jabbar within the next two seasons.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.